Torrey Smith 'not worried at all' about living up to Eagles' expectations

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Torrey Smith 'not worried at all' about living up to Eagles' expectations

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There was a time this season when Torrey Smith looked like the deep threat the Eagles expected. 

When he caught that 59-yard touchdown pass in Week 5 against Arizona, things were going swimmingly. Through five games, he had 13 catches for 204 yards, an average of 15.7 yards per catch. 

That was a long time ago. 

Since that game, Smith hasn't had a catch of more than 11 yards. 

"I'm not worried at all," Smith said from the locker room at Angel Stadium this week. "Now, if I was out there getting locked down and couldn't run past somebody, I'd be a little nervous because that's been my strength. But it's the same old thing to me."

Smith, 28, claims he's still been blowing past defenders this season, but the ball simply isn't coming his way. The flow of the game. There's only one football to go around. All that stuff. 

But the stark difference from the first five games to the last seven is pretty glaring. In the first five, Smith had catches of 59, 30, 24, 22, 14 and 14. And he hasn't had one over 11 yards since. 

For whatever reason, Smith hasn't been the deep threat the Eagles brought him to Philly to be. He hasn't even been the same deep threat he was earlier this season. 

"It's been a few games," offensive coordinator Frank Reich admitted. "We have stuff in every week to get our guys, all of our receivers vertical. Every week we make sure that there are opportunities to get the ball downfield to each one of those guys."

Reich said sometimes the deep ball plays for Smith don't get called. He said sometimes the coverage takes the play away. Sometimes it's a combination of the two, he claimed. Reich maintained that Smith still has the speed to get open. 

Carson Wentz attributed the lack of Smith's explosive plays to the flow of the game. He said there have been times when he just didn't go Smith's way; he went somewhere else, but Smith was open. 

Over those last seven games, Smith has occasionally lost playing time to rookie Mack Hollins, who was regarded as a deep threat at North Carolina.

Smith technically signed a three-year deal, but the last two are basically option years for the Eagles. The writing might be on the wall if Smith can't start making big plays again. 

To Smith's credit, he has been pretty unique in terms of the rate he draws defensive pass interference calls. Those count for the team but not in his stat line (see story)

But the Eagles didn't bring Smith to town to draw penalties. They brought him in to make plays down the field. 

Those haven't come recently. 

"It's not like I haven't still been open on certain things," Smith said. "Haven't lost a step. Plenty of times I've blown by guys. But sometimes the ball doesn't go your way all the time. You have to be ready when it does come."

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."