Following DeVonta Smith’s knee injury early in training camp, it was assumed the first-round pick would miss all three of the Eagles preseason games. However, hours before kickoff the team announced that he would be suiting up against the Patriots, marking his first official appearance in midnight green.
Following a productive week back on the practice field, Smith apparently felt comfortable enough to suit up for live action—though his debut would best be described as a mixed bag, finishing with 2 catches for 19 yards (5 targets).
Smith wasn’t targeted until the offense’s third possession, and came on a scramble after he had won his initial crossing route against J.C. Jackson. The ball was delivered late, and Smith was met with contact as he tried to secure the catch. He probably should have held on, but with the play being short of the sticks and on third down it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
His second target came at the start of the second quarter, and while he was able to get outside leverage on the corner, he and Flacco weren’t able to connect on a back-shoulder throw downfield. Target #3 came on a drag route where Smith flashed his ability to separate underneath, but dropped a wide-open ball after appearing to turn upfield before securing the catch (a rookie mistake).
Smith’s first reception as an Eagle came on his fourth target—a nifty five yard in-route on which he was able to add about four more yards after the catch. While it wasn’t anything special, his ability to release, separate, then immediately work up-field is apparent on this play.
Smith’s second and final catch of the night came on a zig route where he was able to easily separate from his man and pick up the first down after the catch.
Smith was targeted five times on the night, finishing with 2 catches for 19 yards. I wasn’t expecting him to play the entirety of the first half, but game flow likely forced Sirianni to keep him in there.
Allowing him the opportunity to shake off the cob webs and have some real tape to study heading into the regular season is obviously preferable to having him fly blind heading into Week 1, so to speak. In particular, getting a few drops out of the way and responding with a pair of receptions should be huge for his confidence heading into real football.