Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith the friendly ghost is scaring DBs

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

While A.J. Brown has garnered an appropriate amount of hype for his impressive on-field play and limitless ceiling as the Philadelphia Eagles’ first true number one wide receiver in ages, one player who has largely been overlooked through the summer of 2022 has been DeVonta Smith, the team’s reigning rookie receiving yards leader.

Call it a byproduct of being quiet, reserved, and not overly online, but Smith’s second summer with Philly has largely flown under the radar, with his fantastic on-field efforts being overshadowed by those of Brown and Jalen Reagor for very different reasons, with his charity softball game serving as the biggest highlight of the summer.

And yet, when Smith found himself going up against the Cleveland Browns’ defensive backs instead of James Bradberry, suddenly the impressiveness of his on-field efforts come roaring back into the forefront.

That’s right, as our friends over at Inside the Iggles profiled here, Smith absolutely dominated at the Eagles’ joint practice period with the Browns, forcing Greedy Williams to commit DPI when he couldn’t shut his opponent down, and getting into a verbal war of words with 2021 fifth round pick Richard LeCounte; a confrontation that Nick Sirianni ended by saying, “don’t worry about it Smitty! (The) last time you saw him, you won the Heisman!”

This ability to give opposing defensive backs fits in a subtle way, without Brown’s flashy style, has even taken his teammates aback, with Dallas Goedert comparing his teammate to Casper the Friendly Ghost for his ability to shimmy past the press and disappear.

Will this new nickname, “DeVonta the Friendly Ghost,” actually stick? Only time will tell, but with Smith now firmly thrust into the role of WR2, the Eagles have a chance to run a dynamic offensive where both sides of the field are very much in play.

Expect more and less from DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles fans.

In 2021, Smith was by far the Eagles’ top offensive weapon, and every other team in the NFL knew it. The pride of Alabama was the top name mentioned on scouting reports, and defensive coordinators would attempt to slow him down with not only their top cornerback assigned to his side of the field but by shading their defense in his direction.

Did it always work? Overall, no, Smith still got his in a big way more often than not, but from time to time, an opposing team’s game plan did slow him down, like versus the Jets and the now-Commanders. Fortunately, while Smith only amassed 109 total yards over those three games, the Eagles still won both contests because of big performances by Dallas Goedert and Quez Watkins, who were afforded advantageous looks thanks to the extra attention afforded to the then-reigning Heisman Trophy Winner.

Now imagine, if you will, how Smith would perform if the roles were reversed and he was the one getting laxed matchups thanks to the presence of a certified ringer on the opposite side of the field. Imagine just how much more effective Smitty could be if opposing teams overlooked his unassuming demeanor and slight frame and instead turned their attention elsewhere.

Well, fortunately enough, you won’t have to imagine that for long, as Smith will be afforded those opportunities thanks to the addition of Brown and the extra attention he will bring. Suddenly afforded opportunities to face off against an opposing team’s second-best cornerback, or, better yet, their slot corner if Sirianni feels so inclined, Smith should be able to move around the formation with a newfound unassumingness and rack up even more yards than the season prior… at least until he starts dicing teams up, forcing defensive coordinators to play him with a bit more respect.

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In the NFL, defenses are always looking to mitigate the damage an opposing team can deliver. They stack the box to slow down a prolific run game, play two deep safeties to discourage deep balls thrown down the sidelines, and travel their best cornerback on another team’s top receiver in an attempt to slow them down. With Brown now in place as Philadelphia’s top receiver, the Eagles’ entire offense will see more opportunities to shine opened up, with Smith specifically benefiting the most from a newfound lack of attention.