What a journey it has been for the Philadelphia Eagles. From the days of a disgruntled Alshon Jeffery to an often injured DeSean Jackson and even the DNA boys, the Birds have seen their fair share of number one wide receivers bite the dust. But at the end of the 2021-22 regular season, there’s a new hope – DeVonta Smith.
Travis Fulgham was onto something last season and then disappeared when they needed him most. He was then cut from this year’s roster due to bad practice habits.
The front office tried to solve the issue by drafting. JJ Arcega-Whiteside was selected in the second round a few years back and then Jalen Reagor in the first. Both receivers have struggled to live up to expectations.
This all makes the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft even more special. Not only because he was such a well-accomplished player at the collegiate level but because of how easily his game has translated to the NFL and made an instant impact. DeVonta Smith has single-handedly solved the WR dilemma that has haunted the Eagles since the departure of Jeremy Maclin.
On Saturday night, DeVonta Smith not only broke DeSean Jackson’s rookie record for receiving yards but he’s also the first Eagles receiver with over 900 receiving yards since Jordan Matthews in 2015 where he finished with 997 receiving yards.
Smith knows he left a lot of plays out on the field this season. His targets have come with inconsistency as the offense was searching for their identity for a majority of the season. The former Heisman winner came into his rookie year with an inexperienced QB at the helm and a rookie head coach in his corner. There were always going to be significant growing pains along the way.
But how often have Eagles fans seen a receiver with the crisp route-running, confidence, and composure that Smith possesses? In comparison, How often have fans had to rewind their TV’s this year just to see some saucy sideline swagger or a stunning catch?
While Smith left some plays out in the field, his off-the-field impact on the franchise is far more significant. He’s helped mend a room that was broken by last year’s QB’s inconsistency. Quez Watkins who was pushed to the shadows last season has flourished into a very necessary weapon for the Eagles. Watkins went from 7 receptions for 106 yards in his rookie season to 43 receptions for 647 receiving yards.
The WR group has bonded this season in ways that we have rarely seen and it’s due to the leadership of DeVonta Smith. They walk into the stadiums together as a brotherhood and hold each other accountable on the field. They lift one another to as they have done with Reagor all season. There’s no juicy gossip leaving the locker room like there once was under Pederson’s watch.
Even with established veterans in the locker room for the last couple of years, the Eagles had chemistry issues lingering in their WR group that bled into the locker room. Everyone remembers the Alshon leaks and the Agholor outburst towards the media. Nothing like that has happened with Smith in the room.
As the team looks to add more firepower at the position this offseason, the team looks like they have found their number one receiver for years to come who could have a Julio Jones level impact on the franchise. He carries himself like a 7-year veteran with nothing but room for growth ahead of him. Not only was DeVonta Smith the right pick for the Eagles; he was also the antidote that this offense needed.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire