One of the bright spots in yesterday’s disappointing 27-24 loss to the L.A. Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field was the play of first round wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Against the league’s third-best pass defense, Smith and QB Jalen Hurts connected five times on six targets for 116 yards and one touchdown, the second-best performance of his brief career.
Watching the former Heisman Trophy winner routinely get open and make key plays throughout the second half was a most welcome sight for Eagles fans. Finally, it appears as if the Birds have a true difference-maker on the outside.
Two great catches in a row by DeVonta Smith!#Eagles #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/NMNDOycBQR— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) November 7, 2021
Jalen Hurts to Devonta Smith!— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2021
Chargers-Eagles is tied, 24-24.
: #LACvsPHI on CBS
: NFL app pic.twitter.com/pJlDoSdZex
And this doesn’t count the missed throw from Hurts to Smith in the end zone at the end of the first half that should have been a score with a better throw.
Yesterday’s effort was his second career 100+ yard receiving game (he caught 7 balls for 122 yards in a 42-30 loss to the Chiefs in Week 4), and on the season has tallied 38 receptions for 537 yards (14.1 yards per reception). Those numbers put Smith on pace to catch around 72 balls for 1,014 yards, making him the first receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin did it in a 16-game season in 2014.
Smith is doing things few Eagles rookies have ever done.
DeVonta Smith is tied for the 3rd-most 20+ yard receptions (9) in the @NFL since Week 4, trailing only Ja'Marr Chase (11) and Cooper Kupp (10). pic.twitter.com/CITAEKJlLb— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) November 8, 2021
DeVonta Smith has the most receiving yards of any Eagles rookie WR through 9 games (537).— Thomas R. Petersen (@thomasrp93) November 8, 2021
Still don't think it's representative of how open he usually is.#Eagles pic.twitter.com/T4vERnWik0
Based on his projected numbers, Smith’s rookie season is stacking up to be the best in franchise history by a wide receiver.
DeVonta Smith & Eagles Rookie WRs
This is obviously great news for the future of the Eagles, but it also sheds light on another disastrous season by last year’s first round pick, Jalen Reagor.
Yesterday, Reagor caught one pass. It lost six yards. It was the only time he was targeted. In their 44-6 win over the Lions the week before, he was targeted twice. He caught one ball. It gained zero yards. On the season, Reagor has 21 receptions for 159 yards and 2 TDs.
Jalen Reagor is at 7.6 yards per reception this season.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) November 8, 2021
That’s 144th out of 159 qualified players.
Dead last out of all qualified WRs. #Eagles
But that may not even be the worst Jalen Reagor stat out there.
Here is my favorite Reagor stat, and I repeat it often, but at my age that's what you do. In his first game, in the first quarter, he caught a 55 yard pass. He has never topped that total in any game since.— The Phantom Stoll Booth (@YoshkeZoidberg) November 8, 2021
The closest Reagor has come to matching that 55-yard performance in Week 1 of 2020 was in Week 3 of this year when he caught 5 balls for 53 yards. At this pace, Reagor will finish with 40 receptions and 300 yards in this 17-game season. This would actually be fewer yards (396) than he totaled in last year’s disappointing rookie season.
In 20 career games, Reagor has less than 50 receiving yards in 17 of them.
Last year, a myth was being circulated that assumed Minnesota’s outstanding rookie wideout Justin Jefferson, who Howie Roseman famously passed over in the Draft in favor of Reagor, would not have been nearly as good with the Eagles because of the dysfunctional presence of Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson.
It is true Jefferson probably wouldn’t have piled up 88 catches and 1400 receiving yards in last year’s disaster of an Eagles season, but DeVonta Smith is also proving you can still show promise as a rookie wideout in an offense with a quarterback who struggles to throw the football accurately and a head coach whose offensive game plans have been hot-and-cold.
If Reagor’s struggles were mostly because of his QBs and head coaches, one would reasonably expect Smith to struggle, too. Instead, Smith is on his way to putting up the best rookie season a wide receiver has ever had in an Eagles uniform.
To be fair to Reagor, Smith is the defending Heisman Trophy winner and was selected No. 10 overall. Reagor was taken 21st overall, and the talent gap between those two spots can sometimes be significant. Of course, Jefferson was taken 22nd overall, one spot after Reagor, so that argument may not hold as much water as it otherwise might.
Despite the headwinds, Smith has shined as Reagor has struggled, and the difference between the two was made only more clear yesterday against the Chargers.