Eagles Watch: Can DeVonta Smith Go Again?

Is DeVonta Smith’s declining production cause for concern? Time to give Nakobe Dean some time? Is it too early to start thinking about the 2023 draft?

All this and more in today’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagle Sightings!

1. It was surprising to see the disparity that developed between AJ Brown’s production and DeVonta Smith’s. You can’t blame Hurts for throwing at Brown as much as he did, but Smith has really taken a backseat the past few weeks. In the last five games, Brown has 23 catches, 418 yards and five touchdowns, and Smith has 25 catches, but only for 193 yards and one TD and a long gain of just 22 yards. That’s 38 yards per play since Week 4 after averaging 83 yards per play through the first three weeks. Over the past five games, Brown has averaged 10.8 yards per target and Smith just 6.4. When the season started, I expected to see their production roughly equal, with Brown holding a slight edge. But Brown was just that good and there’s no reason to change anything. Just surprising. Smith is really talented and I expect to see more great games from him in the second half of the season. I know one thing. If defenses devote too many resources to slowing down Brown, Smith will make them pay.

2. The Eagles are currently the second-leading scoring team in the NFL at 28.1 points per game, trailing only the Chiefs at 30.4. That’s a lot of catching up to do in the final nine games of the season. If the Chiefs maintain that 30.4 mark, the Eagles will need to average 32.4 points per game the rest of the year to surpass them. But if they do, it will be the first time in 73 years that the Eagles have had the highest scoring team in football. They led the NFL in scoring in 1944 with 26.7, 1945 with 27.2 and 1949 with 30.3. They were number 2 in 1947 and 1948 and number 3 six times, most recently in 2010, 2014 and 2017.

3. I was pretty high on Kyzir White when the season started, and I felt like he was playing at a pretty high level for the first month of the season. But I haven’t seen him lately. Pro Football Focus ranks White 109thth among linebackers in run defense, 64th in cover, 113th under pressure and 100th generally. He has no sacks, no interceptions, no QB hits, four pass deflections and one tackle for loss on Opening Day. He wasn’t terrible, but he just wasn’t the impact player we expected. Which brings us to Nakobe Dean. He’s only played four snaps on defense all year, but I’m at the point where I’d like to see Jonathan Gannon mix it up for White here and there. Find a few packages he’s comfortable in, give him six or eight snaps a game, see how he does, and then increase it if he’s playing well. If it’s not ready, it’s not ready. But it’s not like White makes the difference. Time to try the kid.

4. He has only taken 18 snaps in his career, but Kenny Gainwell has 2n.d-most touchdowns in Eagles history by a running back in his first 24 games. Wilbert Montgomery scored 10 and Gainwell had 9. LeSean McCoy and Miles Sanders also had nine in their first 24 games.

5. If the Eagles go 6-3 or better the rest of the year, Nick Sirianni will knock Rich Kotite out of the Eagles’ record books. Cottee, of all people, owns the best record in franchise history by a coach in his first two years at 21-11 in 1991 and 1992 (he was 19-45 as a head coach after that). That’s a 0.656 win percentage. To beat that in a 17-game season, you’d have to go 23-11. The Eagles are 17-8 in two years under Siriani, so six wins gives him a career-worst 23-11 record, good for a .676 winning percentage. Knocking the Cats out of the record books should be enough motivation for this team to keep winning.

6. We spend so much time talking about Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown and Dallas Goedert that it’s easy to overlook what an incredible season Miles Sanders is having. Eight games into his fourth season, he’s at 7th in NFL with 656 rushing yards, 7thth with 5.0 yards per carry, 7th with 33 first downs and 5th with five rushing touchdowns. Sanders is healthy and works hard and disciplined. Sanders averaged 82 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry, and LeSean McCoy in his 2013 pro season is the only Eagle to ever achieve those marks in a season. Sanders looks set to become the fourth player in history to start his career with four straight 750-yard seasons and at least a 4.6 average. Only Nick Chubb, Gale Sayers and Jim Brown have done that. Pretty good company. Maybe the running backs really are interchangeable, but if I’m Howie Roseman, I find a way to contain Sanders.

7. The Eagles have won four straight games despite allowing 120 or more rushing yards in all four. They are just the third team in the last 20 years to do so, joining the 2009 Saints and 2021 Cards. The last team to win five straight games despite allowing at least 120 rushing yards was the 1978 Washington football team, and before that the 1961 Packers. The Eagles are also one of only two teams in NFL history to go 8-0 despite allowing 5.2 yards per carry. The 2006 Super Bowl-winning Colts are the others. Maybe they can keep winning with a terrible defense. I doubt it though.

8. Every time I watch the Saints lose and the 1st round draft pick they sent to the Eagles gets better and better, I picture the Eagles drafting Will Anderson, the explosive rusher from Alabama. Anderson had 54 ½ tackles for loss and 31 ½ sacks in 37 games over 2 1/2 seasons in Tuscaloosa. Start with this fact: Howie Roseman has taken 11 players with top-20 picks, and eight have been offensive or defensive linemen. Going back to 1996, the Eagles 16 of 24 1St– round picks have been linemen, so this is as much a Jeffrey Lurie thing as a Howie Roseman thing. It is an organizational philosophy. Seven of the eight non-linebackers were quarterbacks or receivers, and the Eagles won’t be selecting any of them in the first round in 2023. So if they keep the Saints’ pick and he is indeed a top-5 pick, chances are very good it will be lineman. If so, who makes more sense than Anderson? Adding him to this defense would be crazy. HowieBall.

9. Cameron Dicker’s story is truly amazing. He has played in two NFL games and kicked two game-winning field goals in the final two minutes in a pair of 20-17 wins for different teams. He has never played a home game in his life. And he never missed a field goal. He is 4-for-4 with two hits for the Eagles against the Cards and two Sunday for the Chargers against the Falcons. And he has half a season left to kick for several of the other 30 teams.

10. I can’t even imagine Nick Foles playing against the Eagles.

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