EAGLES

How DeVonta Smith is coping with diminished targets

EAGLES

There’s not much every single Eagles fan in the world can agree on.

Let’s see.

Dawk was the perfect Eagle. The Super Bowl was fun. Never draft a fireman in the first round.

What else?

DeVonta Smith needs to get the football more.

Smith, the Eagles’ prized 1st-round pick, had just four targets in the Eagles’ last two games before the bye and had the least productive two-game stretch of his career in the MetLife double-header, catching just four passes for 37 yards with a long gainer of 14 yards against the Giants and Jets.

Before the Eagles went up to East Rutherford, Smith was coming off an eight-game stretch in which he averaged 4 ½ catches for 69 yards with three touchdowns.

That's almost 1,200-yard pace for the season.

And that’s the kind of production the Eagles desperately need from their star rookie. But if nobody throws the football his way, there’s not much he can do.

“When the ball comes to me, I’ll make my plays,” Smith said Thursday. “As long as we’re winning, I’m happy.  No matter if we run the ball 100 times and don’t pass at all. If we’re winning, that’s a good thing. Just focus on doing my job and when the ball comes to me, just make a play.”

But there is a direct correlation between Smith getting the football and the Eagles winning.

When Smith catches three or fewer passes, the Eagles are 2-4 and average. When he catches four or more, they’re 4-3.

 

“He's just done a great job when we've targeted him,” Nick Sirianni said Wednesday.

"When we've targeted him."

Smith is getting open. We can all see that. Yet neither Jalen Hurts in the Giants game nor Gardner Minshew in the Jets game got him the ball.

When you have a talent like Smith – who has 19 more catches than any other Eagles receiver – he's got to get the football six or seven times a game. At a minimum.

Smith ranks 30th among NFL wide receivers with 82 targets, but over the last two weeks he has only one more target than Jalen Reagor. Smith even had fewer snaps than Reagor against the Jets, mainly because the Eagles ran so much 13 personnel, with three tight ends, one running back and one receiver.

Heck, over the last two games, Quez Watkins (83 yards) and Reagor both have more yards than Smith (37).

Sorry, but Jalen Reagor should never have more yards than DeVonta Smith over a two-week period. And he certainly shouldn’t play more snaps than Smith in any game.

“That’s the personnel, that’s the game plan, it is what it is,” Smith said. “I’m not upset about it. … Whoever they have out there, that’s who they have out there. Certain personnel, certain people in, we’ve got to go out and execute the game plan. Whatever role we have, we all take pride in.”

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One problem is that the Eagles just don’t throw very many passes.

They’re averaging an NFL-low 29 pass attempts per game but 32 rushing attempts – 2nd-most in the league.

And being a star wide receiver in a run-first offense isn’t ideal.

“It’s been times in my life where I didn’t get that many passes,” he said. “That’s the game. You have to do what’s working for you, and if running the ball is working for you, that’s what we’re going to do.

Who’s to blame? It’s a little bit the quarterbacks, a little bit the play calling, a little bit the style of offense.

Certainly nothing Smith is doing wrong. And if you’re worried about him hitting the rookie wall here in mid-December, don’t.

“I feel good,” he said. “I’m still young. I feel like I can run all day.”

 

All he needs now is something to run after.