Hope is in the air. The Eagles are on an upswing after a big win over the Denver Broncos and now Philadelphia is one win away from seriously being in the playoff hunt. What has changed has been the team finding an identity on both sides of the ball and, crucially, major contributions from their top two draft picks from 2021.
DeVonta Smith is hot right now. The 10th overall pick has caught nine passes for over 170 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. Smith looks dangerous with the ball in his hands, dangerous as a downfield threat, and is proving to be a reliable target for Jalen Hurts every week. Right now, DeVonta Smith 42 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns through 10 games. Smith has the most yardage by an Eagles wide receiver since 2018. He is currently averaging more yards per game than any Eagles wide receiver since 2015 and is on pace to be the first Eagles wide receiver to total 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014. Needless to say, it cannot be understated what kind of season DeVonta Smith is already having, and it really feels like he is only getting started.
The Saints will be a new challenge for the Eagles top receiver. New Orleans’ secondary is loaded with talent, speed and physicality. The Saints defense is built to stop the run, but Marshon Lattimore, PJ Williams, Marcus Williams, Paulson Adebo and Malcolm Jenkins are going to make DeVonta Smith’s afternoon a challenge.
Of course, Smith had no problem making big plays against the secondaries of Los Angeles and Denver. However, the Eagles were easily able to keep those defenses off balance with their run game. The Saints’ stingy front seven could put more pressure on the Eagles to pass the ball more, making DeVonta Smith an even bigger X-Factor in this game.
As for the Eagles second round pick, Landon Dickerson, the last few weeks have been nothing but encouraging. Dickerson had a rough start to the season as he shook off some rust, shuffled positions a few times, and constantly had linemen changing around him. All of that was bad enough, but the Eagles lack of offensive philosophy really impacted the young guard. Since the Raiders game, the Eagles have turned into a physical ground and pound team, and no one has been a bigger beneficiary than Landon Dickerson. Dickerson looks much more comfortable on the field after weeks of awkward, disjointed play. The new look Eagles offense has allowed him to play so much more aggressively and he has truly excelled as a run blocker. It took some time for Landon Dickerson and the Eagles offense to get settled in, but it’s clear that the former Alabama star will be a fixture on the line for years to come.
Similar to Smith, the Saints game will be a chance for Dickerson to keep ascending as a rookie. The Saints have a tough defensive front that will challenge Dickerson and the Eagles line on every down. It will be crucial the Philadelphia can stay balanced on offense and run the ball. No easy task, but if they are able to do it, Dickerson will be a big factor why.
In the case that they need to air it out, Dickerson will need to be at his best for the team to have a chance against this New Orleans defense.
Of course, a bad game from these two is not the end of the world. It is clear that these Eagles rookies are very good and here to stay. However, this is a crossroads that could define the Eagles season. If these top two rookies rise up and help them win, it will be clear the Eagles have something special in these two young stars.