DeVonta Smith studying two Pro Bowl WRs this offseason to improve his game
New Eagles’ WR AJ Brown has been the center of attention this offseason, understandably so.
Brown has eclipsed 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons in the NFL and plays like a running back with the ball in his hands. Earning his way to a $100M extension, Brown projects to be the ideal counterpart to Philadelphia’s other surging receiver, DeVonta Smith.
The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner is coming off an awe-inspiring rookie season, catching 64 passes for 916 yards and five touchdowns. He fell just short of his 1,000-yard goal, however, due to the Eagles’ rush-heavy style of play.
Even with the addition of AJ Brown, that goal should be well within reach for Smith in 2022.
“In my opinion, Smitty is a wide receiver 1 and he’s going against a cornerback No. 2,” Brown said last Friday. “I expect Smitty to dominate.”
With top corners likely to shadow Brown next season, things will only open up more for Smith in Year 2. Familiarity in the offense is also important, and the reps that he and starting QB Jalen Hurts put in last year seem to be already paying off in OTA’s.
Smith isn’t just banking on sheer talent in his second year. According to Zach Berman of The Athletic, he’s been spending much of the offseason studying a pair of Pro Bowl wide receivers to improve his game:
“Smith’s offseason priority has been working on catching the ball in traffic. He has tried digging deeper into the offense and improving his blocking and route discipline. Most of the film he has devoured has been of Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, focusing on the Pro Bowlers’ releases at the line of scrimmage. It’s those details that will make a difference for Smith.”
Already a polished route-runner, incorporating Allen and Adams’ technique will make Smith virtually impossible to contain.
“He can run every route in the route tree,” AJ Brown said.
A 2-step whip route is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/L31b0hXmKX— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) June 5, 2022
Regardless of who’s atop the depth chart on opening day, the Eagles essentially have two WR1s in their new-look offense. Towards the end of last season, head coach Nick Sirianni stated that he wanted to get DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert more targets moving forward.
He now has to factor AJ Brown into the equation as well.
If everything goes right, Philadelphia could have two players exceed the elusive 1,000-yard mark. The last Eagles receiver to reach that milestone was Jeremy Maclin — eight years ago.
“I’m excited, just to learn from a guy like him,” Smith of AJ Brown. “Anytime you play football, you watch all the different receivers, just seeing what everybody has in their toolbox. So him being here, just being able to learn from him [is helpful].”
Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff | Getty Images