PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles believe they have two No. 1 receivers in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith but how about two of the top 10 in the entire NFL?
That’s an exclusive club that Brown certainly joined last season — his first in Philadelphia — when the Ole Miss product was named second-team All-Pro after catching 88 passes for a franchise-record 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In case you missed it though, Smith set his own franchise mark for receptions by a wideout with 95 for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns. While regarded by most as the 1B to Brown’s 1A, and “Skinny Batman” to A.J.’s swole version of the caped crusader Smith noted that he believed he was a top-10 WR on the “I Am Athlete” podcast for former All-Pro Brandon Marshall.
Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex, Smith was asked about that self-scout.
“I think as you go on, and you continue to raise your level of play. I think that comes into it. … That’s just being confident in myself and my abilities,” the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner said. “I’m pretty sure you won’t have many guys come up here and say they don’t think they’re not (top 10 at their position). Just being confident in my abilities and just raising my play.”
In other words, Smith wasn’t boasting, just flashing the self-confidence that’s intrinsic to any high-level athlete.
The mythical top-10 club is for others to decide but few would dismiss the thought of Smith joining the club as out of hand. One of the sharpest route-runners in football, Smith is deceptively long and physical despite his 166-pound frame.
There’s also plenty of room for further improvement, an idea that strikes fear into opposing cornerbacks.
“I’d say the mental side of the game,” Smith defaulted to when asked what the next step may be. “Continue to get mentally sharp in my preparation, and going out there and playing, so I can see things faster.”
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni also stressed route discipline and Smith noted that recognizing coverages in a quicker fashion will result in more efficacy.
“It’s recognition of the defenses,” the third-year pro said. “Teams change every year. A lot of coordinators change, and things like that. So, a team that you may have played in the past might not be running the same schemes and things like that.”
As the Eagles get set to kick off on-field OTAs next week, Smith is fully rehabbed from a painful toe injury that slowed him down a bit late in what was a 20-game season for Philadelphia through Super Bowl LVII.
In 2023, the top-10 description might be quaint with the new standard being conversations that include the best in the sport, names like Justin Jefferson, Devante Adams, Tyreek Hill, JaMarr Chase, and Brown.
“I kind of always felt like that to myself, humbly,” Smith said.