Eagles

Eagles mailbag: DeVonta Smith’s usage, 2022 draft and more

Eagles

It’s going to be a long day.

Whenever the Eagles play a night game, it always feels like a long day. But when it’s Sunday night, at least you have other games to watch to kill the time. We don’t have that with these Monday night games.

So hopefully this will help you kill the time.

We answered a bunch of questions yesterday. You can read that here.

But there were a lot left:

Yeah, I think so. I know Smith didn’t fill up the stat sheet against the 49ers; he had just two catches for 16 yards. But he was targeted a team-high seven times and if one of those deep shots hits, we probably would have spent all week talking about how good of a game he had.

I don’t worry about Smith, mainly because he’s just too talented to not be a productive receiver in this offense. He’s going to consistently get open with his route running ability alone and we know Jalen Hurts is going to be looking for him.

Through two games, Smith has been targeted a team-high 15 times. The last time an Eagles receiver had more targets through his first two career games was DeSean Jackson (18) back in 2008. As long as Hurts keeps targeting Smith — and he will — I’m confident Smith will produce.

Yeah, it’s a little early for that but the Eagles might have three first-round picks so it’s worth thinking about at least. We’ll put quarterback out of the conversation for this question but that will be a possibility until Hurts proves that he’s the franchise’s best long-term option.

 

The position that comes to mind first is defensive end. It’s time for the Eagles to draft another edge rusher. It’s great that they got Josh Sweat in the fourth round in 2018 and signed him to an extension. But Derek Barnett will be a free agent after this season, Ryan Kerrigan is on a one-year deal and Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger.

The last time the Eagles used a first-round pick on a defensive end was with the No. 14 pick in 2017, when they took Barnett. Barnett hasn’t been a bust but he hasn’t lived up to his draft status either. Interior pass rush has become more important league-wide over the last few years with the emergence of guys like Aaron Donald and even Fletcher Cox. But the Eagles have a strong prospect in Milton Williams and Javon Hargrave appears to be entering his prime. So I’d look for an end with one of those first-rounders next year.

I’ll take a look at each position:

If the Eagles were going to sign a veteran receiver, they would have done it in the offseason and I thought there was a chance they might. After all, they have an extremely young group with Greg Ward as the most experienced member. But this is a transition year and they definitely have talent at that position. If the Eagles signed a veteran and that veteran then took snaps away from Smith, Jalen Reagor or Quez Watkins, that would have been a shame. I agree with the Eagles on this one. Let these young weapons develop with Hurts and really see what you have. Bringing in a veteran just for the sake of bringing in a veteran — I hear Kamar Aiken is still available — wouldn’t have been wise.

On both lines, the Eagles have depth that is now being tested. They are down two starting offensive linemen and one defensive end. But they build this team in a way where they hoped to be able to withstand these injuries.

If Hurts ends up having a bad season, yes. The Eagles obviously value the quarterback position, even more than other teams in this QB-driven league. So if Hurts plays poorly enough that the Eagles really don’t think he’s the answer, then they would very likely be aggressive in finding his replacement.

To be clear, I’m not predicting that type of season from Hurts. If anything, the fear here is that he has an OK season, shows promise but doesn’t definitively prove himself to be the franchise guy. That would lead to the toughest question for this franchise: Try to build around him and hope he improves or go after a big fish in free agency or the draft.

 

The reason the Eagles were linked to Deshaun Watson and the reason we’re all talking about a potentially big move is because of the assets that Howie Roseman has accumulated. He might have three first-round picks and plenty of cap room next offseason to make a big splash. If Hurts really struggles mightily, I’d bet on him doing that.

I get these questions just about every time I do a mailbag. Normally, it’s about putting Jordan Mailata in the backfield. I get it. It’s fun. We all love watching highlights of the fridge. But it’s rare in this league to move guys back there. The closest the Eagles get is using their extra tackle as a tight end.

The compromise, of course, would be the utilization of a fullback, something we haven’t yet seen from Nick Sirianni. But we have seen some 21 personnel (two running backs) so there’s theoretically a chance we could see a lead blocker at some point. But I don’t fancy your chances of seeing a defensive tackle in the backfield.

Short story: Back when I was covering the Houston Texans in 2013, they started experimenting in practice with using J.J. Watt as a tight end. Back then, I was allowed to watch all of practice during the season and I still remember Bill O’Brien walking over to the sideline when we saw Watt lining up on offense. “Not a f— word!” he shouted. We didn’t report it but when Watt caught a touchdown pass in that game, we knew it was something they had been working on.

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