It’s time to get to diving deep on the Eagles’ rookies. Thank you for the lovely feedback on the Jalen Hurts piece last week, the comment section was awesome and there was some great points made.
Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing Eagles picks from their 2021 NFL Draft class. This week is a fun one. DeVonta Smith. Grab a drink, sit down and enjoy.
Rather than just do a scouting report on each player, I will try to include some scheme notes too. So each piece will start with useful stats and how they were used in the Eagles scheme, before going onto strengths, weaknesses, overall and how I see their future panning out with the Eagles.
Lets get to it.
All data is taken from PFF, by the way.
- Lined up as an outside WR for 87% of his snaps. Only in the slot for 12%.
- Doesn’t just line up on one side. 477 snaps at left WR, 391 at right WR.
- Had 13 catches out of the slot for 135 yards and 4TD’s. Largely moved to the slot in Red Zone packages.
- 39th in the NFL in yards per route run, a low number considering his talent.
- Only 6 targets behind the LOS all season. Ended up with 6 catches for 77 yards. Should be given more changes to create YAC.
- 21% target share in the Eagles offense this season (not enough).
- Only had 10 targets once all season (week 4).
+ Outstanding route runner, incredibly smooth in and out of his breaks with very sudden feet. Nightmare to cover in man coverage. An extremely fluid athlete. Elite at comeback routes due to his stop/start ability.
To he fair to Hurts... next play is an absolute beauty. Check the route by Smith too! Hurts does a great job not staring this down too. pic.twitter.com/Es8XEP8DZY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
Again... classic man beater & example of putting your best player in a position to succeed. Put Smith in condensed split, CB has to have outside lev, spread out options so he is left 1v1. Great job by Hurts ignoring the rush and knowing Smith will be open. It all looked... easy! pic.twitter.com/FhCToq1Czc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
+ Understands the nuances of route running like a veteran. Can use a variety of different tempos to get open and understands how to work a cornerbacks blind spot and use his leverage against him.
Smith is so good at route running. Check out the pacing here. Start slightly slow... then put the burners on for a split second to make it look like a go and also move ever so slightly wide in order to get in to get in the CBs blind spot before stopping. This is clinic tape. pic.twitter.com/elVRWMdqFB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 9, 2021
Classic post/cross combo. Under center helps create room for throw Great call by Sirianni to make it easy on Hurts - just read the single high safety. Smith is already elite at the nuances of route running. Check the slight lean upfield before cutting up & he is so so smooth. pic.twitter.com/8sbAuSOcV3— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 9, 2021
+ Despite his size, plays fearless and is more than happy to make catches in the middle of the field. Really good at deep in routes.
THIS! I said earlier I want to see Hurts keep his eyes downfield and feel pressure rather than scramble. This is easily the best play of the first half. More of this please (and more targets to Smith) pic.twitter.com/srVKhF010G— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
This is the best play of the day by a mile. Deep over with deep dig in behind. Hurts finally stands in the pocket and delivers a beauty. Need to see this type of play a lot, lot more. pic.twitter.com/HcKbxZ2K5n— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 18, 2021
+ Has real vertical speed to get over the top of the defense. Excels at all 3 levels of the field, can win in the short game, intermediate game and deep game.
*NOTE - I was wrong when I posted on twitter. This is Smith in the slot running the seam NOT Quez Watkins.
Again, didn't need the all22 to see this again. Worse on 2nd look. Wide open, no pressure and he's looking right at it. Just inaccurate. Nothing more to say. However, check out the speed of Watkins running the seam... he can FLY. pic.twitter.com/uRABjpExkc— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 12, 2021
Hard to know whether he has already come off Smith here due to CB dropping but I think Hurts will be annoyed he doesn't take shot here to Smith. He is open when CB plays the over route by Goedert. Hell of a catch by Smith in the end though! pic.twitter.com/Db7b2fp9nF— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 23, 2021
+ Can line-up and win anywhere - either in the slot or out of the backfield. Had to play ‘X’ a lot due to the Eagles options this year but is not limited to this.
Sirianni is killing the Jets. D played a lot of man coverage and used it v the single WR w/ trips opposite. Sirianni must have seen this before, Eagles put Gainwell out wide, move Smith to RB and get him lined up with a LB in cov. The play unfolds exactly as you expect. Perfect. pic.twitter.com/PO2QvJSUfh— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 7, 2021
+ Outstanding body control, can catch balls in awkward positions and especially on the sideline. Can make exceptional catches low from the ground and can snatch inaccurate throws out the air due to his length.
BAMA ON BAMA CRIME— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) November 14, 2021
DeVonta Smith Mossed Patrick Surtain
This play is awesome. Giants 24 is supposed to have Smith in man cov but motion loses him. 29 plays it perfectly and takes Smith yet he still can't cover him on the sideline. This is an unreal catch! Also love the design, Sirianni is building more easy throws out of run looks. pic.twitter.com/o8eajruhY6— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) December 28, 2021
+ Numbers would be far better if Hurts was a better pocket passer. Had multiple opportunities where he was open and did not get the ball.
The throw everyone was talking about! Chargers showing blitz & clear press man coverage. Hurts knows he is looking at Smith on the corner route from slot. Smith wins with a good release but Hurts never sets his feet and misses. I don't mind drifting to the left but need to reset pic.twitter.com/X0cQEwA0RZ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 9, 2021
This is at least the 3rd time I've highlighted Hurts not throwing an out/corner against C2 Zone when a WR is wide open. He's staring right at Smith, gotta throw this thing, especially on 3rd down! Led to a FG. Should have been converted. Late safety rotation must confuse him here pic.twitter.com/hL0c1v0Erw— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 2, 2021
+ Has the ability to make defenders miss and create YAC. Didn’t get this opportunity much this year with the Eagles but has proven that he can do it.
Let's end on a high... Another play I think the Bucs actually shut down due to their team speed BUT this time they throw it to their best playmaker and guess what - he makes a play! Get him more involved!!! pic.twitter.com/VIB8KTxvfR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
+ Extremely competitive on every snap. Never takes a snap off and is more than a willing blocker. Plays physical on every snap.
I’ve watched this a dozen times and I’m still blown away how accurate Jalen Hurts was on this pitch falling down. And what can you say about the toughness and clutch moments provided by Boston Scott.— Kevin Negandhi (@KevinNegandhi) January 3, 2022
DeVonta Smith *cares* about blocking. pic.twitter.com/GisaUBQ9rX— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 14, 2021
Very thin frame No one cares!
- He can be pressed at the line of scrimmage if he does not win immediately. Probably not suited to playing the ‘X’ position on an every snap basis.
Just being honest... Smith struggled at times with close press man coverage this game. I LOVE Smith but the Eagles coaching staff need to use him in different ways. Get him in stacks, in the slot, in motion... He had to face a lot of press man this game and it was a tough matchup pic.twitter.com/ycmslnt3Pm— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
- Can be forced to the sideline if he doesn’t get off press coverage immediately. Play strength is a concern against elite, physical corners.
Just another example... Would have loved to have been more creative with Smith. He needs to be more involved and there's no shame at all in moving him around and getting off close press man. pic.twitter.com/6SIdNlisP7— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 18, 2022
Not one for hot takes or controversial opinions... but I was underwhelmed with DeVonta Smith's tape this week. Had a few drops on tough catches (but ones you'd want a top WR to make). Here he is 1on1 with the CB with no safety help and he can't get off the line of scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/2d0iT7zTxx— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) October 26, 2021
- Doesn’t dominate in contested situations like a top physical wide receiver. This is not his game. Only had a 39% contested catch success rate.
This is an easy evaluation for everyone: DeVonta Smith is a pretty special player. He’s an elite talent and his frame really was not a problem this year. He has the ability to line up all over the field, can win against man coverage, understands the nuances of route running like a veteran and can also get down the field and create yards after the catch. In my opinion, he is already a pretty legitimate number 1 wide receiver and should get targeted a lot more moving forward.
There really are not too many holes to pick in his game. He is pretty exactly what the Eagles hoped he would be when they traded up for him. If he got targeted like a number 1 wide receiver, he could put up some pretty ridiculous numbers in a different style of offense.
I absolutely love Smith as a player, but it will be interesting to see just how good he will be. We all know he is very, very good. That’s not a debate. In some ways, this is quite a tricky player to predict because I think every Eagles fan loves him… but how good is he?
In my opinion, I see Smith becoming a top, top receiver but probably slightly below the ‘elite’ in the NFL. Maybe a top 5-7 talent rather than a ‘best in the NFL’ talent. I’m not sure Smith has the size or physicality to dominate the top corners in the game, such as a Jalen Ramsey type. I don’t see the same physical ‘jump off the screen’ talent as a Ja’Marr Chase, Davante Adams or maybe even… Justin Jefferson (sorry Howie).
That does not mean Smith cannot be an elite producer in any offense. The Eagles coaching staff MUST start to treat Smith like a legitimate WR1. There is no way he should be getting 10 targets in a game… just once! All season! He needs to be moved around the formation more and not just stuck out wide. He should be moved into the slot, put in motion and used out of the backfield. Just because you find ways to create matchups for someone and to get them off press coverage does not mean they are not an elite talent. It is just smart to utilise a player like Smith in a variety of ways. I would love the Eagles to target a big bodied ‘X’ receiver in FA so Smith can be used in different ways and will not have to face consistent press coverage.
Seriously, if the Eagles do not target Smith and utilise him in different ways next year, I will be very mad. If the Eagles staff does commit to targeting him more like a number 1 receiver, I think he could end up in the top 5-10 for yards as early as next season.
Isn’t it fun to have a great wide receiver again?