For the past few weeks, a strange narrative started surfacing around Eagles circles. The focus was on rookie wideout DeVonta Smith and the idea was that he may not be a franchise caliber wideout after all.
Maybe it was the two drops he’s had on 62 targets, which obviously isn’t justified. Or maybe it was his lack of touchdowns and comparing him to fellow rookie pass catcher Ja’Marr Chase, who’s tallied seven touchdowns in nine games.
Here’s the clear and obvious difference between the two — one has Joe Burrow throwing him the rock, the other has Jalen Hurts.
The fact that Smith has accumulated 38 receptions, 537 receiving yards, and two touchdowns with a limited passer throwing him the ball is remarkable. He has the most receiving yards by an Eagles rookie wideout through nine games.
I can somewhat understand why fans were quick to criticize Smith after a few pedestrian stat lines. I attribute it to PTSD from failed wide receivers the Eagles have drafted over the past few seasons. Since 2016, Howie Roseman has spent draft picks on Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins, John Hightower, and Jalen Reagor. None of them have had strong impacts on the team, although there’s still hope for Reagor and Watkins.
In Smith’s latest effort against the Chargers, he had arguably his besting outing as a pro. He totaled five receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. He would have had two touchdowns if Hurts hit him on this throw at the end of the first half.
Smith made a nice contested catch in the second half and he left defenders in the dust on almost every one of his targets. His 19.33 yards per target on Sunday was the highest mark of his young career.
Without Smith on the outside, it’s hard to imagine this Eagles passing attack having any success at all. Every young quarterback benefits from a legitimate outside threat, but typically that comes from a veteran, proven wideout. Smith may not check the veteran box, but he certainly checks the proven box.
He’s on pace to become the first Eagles receiver to go over 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin did it in 2014. It’s been seven years since a wideout has crossed the 1,000-yard mark in Philly.
Smith is the first franchise wideout this team has had in a very long time. And he’s only going to get better.