The Eagles might have been subjected to a week 18 beatdown last night, but that doesn’t matter. In a meaningless game where the Birds rested their starters and Dallas fielded all of theirs, DeVonta Smith still found a way to send himself into the record books.
With three catches for 41 yards on the night, Smith ended his rookie campaign with 916 yards and 5 touchdowns in 17 games. This was enough to break the all-time franchise rookie receiving record previously held by DeSean Jackson.
Jackson had 912 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 16 games back in 2008 and earned his first of three Pro Bowls one year later. It seems as of Smith is going down the right path.
“When I talked to DeVonta earlier in the week, I asked him how important that record is for him, and he said, “I want to do what is best for the team.” “But, I know, at some point, he wants that record. So, we were able to get it for him without a lot of risk taken with him. But, again, he is feeling good.” Nick Sirianni said after the game.
Smith has done nothing but show great character as a rookie. A brilliant embodiment of the culture that Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban has worked hard to instil, Smith hit the ground running in Philadelphia by catching a touchdown in his debut and never looked back.
His crisp route-running, sensational spatial awareness and reliable hands helped provide the Eagles with the type of wideout fans had been begging for since the days of Jackson and former teammate Jeremy Maclin. His play had been a breath of fresh air from the moment he stepped onto the field and it rubbed off on just about everyone.
“It was awesome. I am really happy for him.” Said QB Gardner Minshew after the loss. “He is a great dude and works really hard. He is going to be a really special player so to help him get that, we are all really fired up for him.”
As for Smith, he has a much more nonchalant response about being a record breaker, which is unsurprising given that he did win the Heisman in his final collegiate season.
“I mean, it kind of feels good just to get it out of the way. In the beginning, I wasn’t even worried about it, but once it happened, everybody being around me, congratulating me, just kind of felt good.” He told reporters after the game.
Smith was more excited about the idea of playing in the postseason.
“It’s big. It’s big because it’s the next game. You play to continue. Just go out there and get a win to continue playing. I mean, that’s been it the whole time. Get to the playoffs and try to win. Win it all. That’s what it is and that’s what it’s all about. We didn’t come this far just to stop now.”
Whether Smith broke the record last night or not, his presence in the playoffs was always going to be a huge boost for Philadelphia. He’s the most electric pass-catcher the offense has at its disposal and his measured approach to the game and situation will be infectious to a mostly young and inexperienced locker room.
The Eagles are lucky to have DeVonta Smith in their ranks and if this season has been any indication, he may be one of the biggest home-run draft picks in franchise history.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire