As you’ve already heard about a million times this offseason, Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith were once teammates. Heck, Hurts even hosted Smith on his visit to Alabama.
But a lot has changed since then.
With the Eagles’ success in 2021 largely hinging on them, the two former teammates spent their spring in Philadelphia during modified OTAs re-learning how to play with one another.
Smith noticed at least one major change in Hurts.
“He’s grown a lot. He’s smarter, the decision-making that he does,” Smith said. “He works hard. He understands everything a lot more. Us being at practice, not just me and him but his connection with all the other receivers, the running backs, the O-line, just the communication as an offense, everything is getting better. And it’s only going to get better as we keep going.”
That makes sense. Hurts and Smith were teammates at Alabama in 2017 and 2018 but after the 2018 season, Hurts moved on to Oklahoma where he played under Lincoln Riley, became a Heisman Trophy runner up and a second-round pick in the NFL draft.
And then last season, as Smith was winning the Heisman Trophy for himself, Hurts was being tossed into the mix as the Eagles’ quarterback, replacing Carson Wentz. It was an up-and-down season but there’s no way it wasn’t educational.
So it’s fair to say that Hurts has learned a lot in the two years since he and Smith were teammates.
“I think about DeVonta and I always tell people the first thing about him, one, the competitor he is. Kind of a stoic guy, kind of like myself in a few ways,” Hurts said. “But he’s self-driven and bringing someone in like that, it helps. It helps, just the presence of him being here.”
But during the spring, the process of getting these two back on the same page was already well underway. Smith mentioned early in the spring that they wouldn’t simply rest on their history; that they wanted to forge that relationship again.
“It’s going good, just getting in every day, the small details of everything that we’re doing,” Smith said at the tail end of the Eagles’ spring program.
“He’s more experienced now, he’s way smarter, he’s learned a lot more. He’s growing, I’m growing. We’re trying to get everything right as of right now.”
There are a lot of questions about the Eagles as they prepare to enter the 2021 season. Two of the major ones are about an unproven yet talented second-year quarterback and an extremely inexperienced wide receiver room led by the No. 10 pick in the draft.
The hope is that Smith and Hurts become cornerstones of the franchise. We’ll find out soon enough if they can.
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