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Nick Sirianni talks DeVonta Smith’s big game against the Commanders

The Eagles head coach also commented on facing Doug Pederson in Week 4, and what makes Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham special.

Eagles’ head coach Nick Sirianni was back in Philly on Monday and spoke to reporters about the spark that DeVonta Smith provided for the offense on Sunday against the Commanders. He also talked about why they’ve been so successful against zone defense, his thoughts on facing Doug Pederson and the Jaguars in Week 4, and why Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are special.

Here’s some of what the head coach had to say:

On the offensive slow start and DeVonta Smith spark

As he said on Sunday after the game, Sirianni emphasized his respect for Washington’s defensive line, particularly the interior players. They were doing a good job of stopping the Eagles’ offense early on, but then they were squatting on some things so they threw the deep ball to DeVonta Smith and ended up with three points on the drive. The defense had a huge turnover and then Jalen Hurts had a nice screen pass for a touchdown. The head coach said sometimes it just takes seeing “the ball go through the hoop” so to speak to create that momentum and rhythm that we saw after the slow start.

Later on, Sirianni was asked about how they teach the kind of jump ball pass and catch on the over-the shoulder catch by DeVonta Smith. The head coach explained that they practice weird and difficult catches throughout the week, so that hopefully there aren’t any catches they’re making for the first time on game day.

“At the end of the day, we could have done those drills with them till we were blue in the face, or not done them at all. But DeVonta is going to make that play because DeVonta’s a heck of a football player and Jalen put the ball where it needed to be and DeVonta went up and got it. That was super impressive and an outstanding play.

I think one thing you see about DeVonta is that he’s going to catch the ball, right? He’s really outstanding of just catching the football in different body positions, whether it’s the over-the-shoulder catch he made that kind of got us started or the post that he caught in the middle of the field at the end of the first half in traffic or it was the jump ball type play that he made to score the touchdown. He just does a phenomenal job of making those different types of catches because of the hands that he has.”

On the offense’s success vs. zone coverage

He said that it’s a combination of Jalen Hurts playing at a really high level right now, and the variety of wide receivers they have provides a lot of different mismatch opportunties.

“When it’s man, you gotta beat the man, it’s me vs. you, I gotta win this play. When it’s zone, it’s about the quarterback making the right decision with the football on time, and it’s about the receivers and the tight ends and the running backs being where they’re supposed to be within that zone. So, if you’re supposed to be on the inside edge of the numbers, you gotta be on the inside edge of the numbers. And then, obviously, everything starts with the protection, and we’re getting great protection obviously from our offensive line. Can’t say enough about the offensive line.”

On Jalen Hurts

“I just think you’ve seen tremendous progression from him because he works at it and he loves it. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He’s doing a great job right now. We got to continue that. We’re working like crazy to continue to help put him in good positions to make plays.

Jalen is seeing the field really well right now. Even if we don’t put him in position to make a play, he can get us to the right play. He’s got that. He’s done some nice things there as far as his checks, too.”

On facing Doug Pederson this week

Sirianni admitted that he doesn’t know Doug Pederson personally, just knows about him from the people in the organization and around the league.

“I got a ton of respect for him. I don’t know him personally. I’ve talked to him a couple times. I only know him through obviously the people in this building and through Frank. I’ve heard nothing but phenomenal things. I think he’s a great football coach. Obviously, he brought this city a world championship. So much respect for him.

I know that I’m pretty far into my Jacksonville preparation right now. You can just tell that they’re well-coached. It doesn’t surprise me at all because I know how good of a coach Coach Pederson is.”

On the success of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham

It was pointed out that despite getting fewer snaps, the veterans are being super productive through three games this season. Sirianni said that the depth they have along the defensive line lends to Cox and Graham not having to be on the field as much, which in turn keeps them fresher and more able to get after the quarterback when it’s called for.

Sirianni lauded the pair, saying that not only do they bring a ton of experience on the field — having won a championship —, but they are also great leaders in the locker room. They have the kind of depth they do because of the time and effort those guys put into teaching the younger players. The head coach noted that not all veterans around the league are like that, and some don’t think it’s their job to help the new guys.

“You can see how much it means to them that they have that C on their chest, that they have that captain on their chest. Whether it’s B.G.’s constant energy of how happy he is to be there every day, and he doesn’t take a day for granted, he works like crazy every single day, worked like crazy to get back from his injury, or whether it’s Fletch who has a guy behind him that we drafted in the first round and he’s working his butt off to help this guy develop, to help Jordan Davis develop. That’s special.”

Other notables

  • Sirianni was vague about some of the injuries sustained on Sunday, saying just that everything, structurally, is fine and they’ll see how the week plays out.
  • He talked about DeVonta Smith being used as a punt returner, and he said that it’s something they’ve been talking about and have been trying to find more ways to get the ball in his hands. Sirianni said Smith is really sure-handed as a returner, and he does have some experience from his time in college. The head coach emphasized that it wasn’t a slight to Britain Covey, who he said still had a good game despite fumbling a return.

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