As the wait for Training Camp begins, it’s time to take a look at some of the key players for the Philadelphia Eagles and go over what we can expect from them in 2022. There’s no better place to start than arguably the brightest star on the entire roster, DeVonta Smith.
DeVonta Smith explodes as a rookie
DeVonta Smith joined the team as one of the most decorated receivers in NCAA history. The Heisman-winning wideout brought a ridiculous ability to the table, but concerns over his durability didn’t take long to surface thanks to his lean frame. This ultimately led to him being just within reaching distance of Howie Roseman, who wasted no time in trading up to get his man.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Smith ended his rookie year by breaking DeSean Jackson’s franchise rookie record for receiving yards, amassing 916 on 64 receptions, scoring 5 touchdowns in the process. Among NFL rookie wideouts, he ranked third in receiving yards. As the third wideout drafted that year, it’s safe to say that’s right in line with expectations.
As he prepares for year two, it’s hard to really predict his outlook purely because of the offseason the Eagles have had.
A different dynamic
In 2021, it was DeVonta Smith vs the world. Sure, Quez Watkins helped open things up and Dallas Goedert was a menace down the seams, but Smitty drew a team-leading 103 targets in 2021. That’s 27 more than the man who had the second-most on the team, Dallas Goedert. We can expect that number to take a tumble in 2022.
Enter A.J Brown. The Eagles traded for the former Titans wideout during the NFL Draft, giving Smitty a dream running-mate. The only worry is that the Eagles are paying him a lot of money, and he himself drew a team-leading 105 targets, while the second-highest amount on the team was a lowly 56.
Given the fact that the Eagles had a league-leading rushing offense and now have two wideouts who have excelled with sizable volume, it’s fair to say that someone’s going to lose out.
Do the recent changes benefit DeVonta Smith?
There is a counter-argument to be had though. Jalen Hurts was pretty poor as a passer for the most part last year. His passes lacked zip, he struggled on deep targets and was often caught out by complex defensive looks. If we assume he takes a step forward in his development, would you rather Smitty have 108 targets of a lesser quality, or 75 really strong ones?
Then, there’s the case that A.J Brown is so damn good that safeties are going to have to bracket him eventually. If they do, you can’t afford to leave a route-technician like Smith in one-on-one matchups.
DeVonta Smith is going to produce, be it on 10 targets or 1,000. It would be unfair to expect him to take a huge step forward in terms of production this year, but his presence and further development should enable the passing offense to boast much more of a threat than it ever did in 2021, especially when compounded with all of the offseason changes.
Realistic expectation: 71 targets, 51 receptions, 815 yards, 6 touchdowns
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Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire