Philadelphia Eagles: Week 15 should be all about DeVonta Smith

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

It took just one game for DeVonta Smith to establish himself as the Philadelphia Eagles‘ best wide receiver.

The 10th overall player selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, Smith came into the league running smooth routes, soft hands, and a winner’s mentality cultivated over years in Tuscaloosa as one of the best wide receivers in NCAA history. Re-paired up with one of his college quarterbacks, Smith went for 70-plus in three of his first five games, played 90.8 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, and looked like he might just become the team’s first 1,000-yard wide receiver since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

Life was good, Philly was sunny, and the season looked like it was the team’s for the taking.

… and then they started losing.

As the season started to rapidly untether, Nick Sirianni made the at the time risky decision to double-down on the run and will games in the trenches, even if it radically altered the offense he spent the entire summer building.

*spoiler alert* it worked.

While Smith continued to shine when his number was called over that tenure, recording his best career game as a pro in a Week 9 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the former Bama great went from averaging 7.6 targets per game over the first seven games of the season to 4.5 over the next six and averaged 18.5 yards per game post-Thanksgiving.

Now granted, was that all on DeVonta Smith? No. Week 12 was arguably Jalen Hurts‘ worst game as a pro, and Week 13 saw Gardner Minshew take the field for the first time since the end of Week 8. Fortunately, Week 15 looks like a perfect bounce-back opportunity for 6, as Washington will be without their top cornerback for a pivotal NFC East showdown.

The Philadelphia Eagles need to throw to DeVonta Smith all Sunday afternoon.

Washington’s Football Team is not very good against the pass.

Through the first 13 games of the season, Ron Rivera’s squad has allowed the third-most passing yards of any team in the NFL, trailing only the Seattle Seahawks and the Baltimore Ravens with an average of 259.1 yards per game.

That’s bad.

Granted, Washington isn’t totally bereft of talent in their secondary, but their best cornerback, Kendall Fuller, has allowed 673 yards and two touchdowns while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.1 percent of their passes.

If given a chance to face off against Fuller all afternoon long, DeVonta Smith would surely still get his for the Philadelphia Eagles, but the matchup would at least be one to watch. Fortunately, that isn’t the case, as Fuller is currently on Washington’s COVID list, and because he’s unvaccinated, he is ineligible to go in Week 15, according to John Clark.

With Fuller out, Washington is expected to go with ex-Patriots seventh-round pick Darryl Roberts, who is on his third team in as many seasons and has yet to log a defensive snap for the burgundy and gold. If Rivera opts to keep his corners side specific, expect Smith to line up on Roberts early and often regardless of who the Eagles have under center, and especially if Jalen Hurts is able to go after suffering a high ankle sprain versus the New York Giants.

And if Rivera opts to instead have his other starting cornerback, William Jackson III, shadow Smith all game long? Well, that shouldn’t be too big of an issue either, as Jackson is having a pretty brutal go of things outside of Cincinnati.

Since signing a three-year, $40.5 million deal in free agency to leave the jungle for the beltway, Jackson has allowed 475 yards and six(!) touchdowns through the air while only slightly offsetting those totals with a pair of picks. Factor in a missed tackle percentage of 12.2, and you’re left with a 29-year-old cornerback who is alright in a secondary role but may struggle to go full-on Darius Slay for an entire afternoon.

Either way, start Smith in your fantasy league, friends; the only thing that can slow him down this week is his own offense.

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Will DeVonta Smith ultimately shine out and join Jeremy Maclin in the 1,000-yard receiver club? Honestly, probably not. He’d need to clear the 75 yards per game mark in each of the last four games of the season, and with Nick Sirianni calling plays for either Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew, that feels incredibly hard to confidently predict. But hey, even if Smith pulls a Jordan Matthews and comes up a few yards short, that really isn’t the biggest deal; as long as he’s putting good catches on tape and receiving enough targets to remain an offensive focal point, things will surely play out for the better.