The Philadelphia Eagles finally were able to acquire a veteran No. 1 wide receiver in A.J. Brown, giving Jalen Hurts a top target in showcasing Philadelphia's commitment to the quarterback for 2022. Brown not only will affect the play of Jalen Hurts, but DeVonta Smith -- who set the Eagles' franchise record for yards by a rookie receiver last year.
Smith showed plenty of flashes as No. 1 wide receiver in his rookie campaign. With Brown aboard, the Eagles feel he'll take his game to the next level now that defenses have another big-play threat to focus on.
"That's exactly what it is, it's a good complement," Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said Thursday night. "He's a bigger guy with a lot of play strength. Like I said, this is one of the stronger receivers in the NFL. I was on the opposite sideline of him twice a year in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. So, I saw it up close and personal, and then obviously we did our due diligence on tape.
"There's a lot of different things that because of his skill set, because of that play strength, because of that body quickness that he has and just the major – the biggest asset that he has is the one that's so vital to the position. If you can't catch the ball, you can't play. And this guy catches everything.
"We can see him on a lot of different routes that fit our offense that uses that play strength, that uses that quickness, and that's where he's so tough. You want guys that can win one-on-one matchups. And this guy has shown in the NFL that he will win one-on-one matchups. Again, I know I keep saying it, but it just sticks out. The way he wins with his play strength, the way he wins with his quickness."
Smith had 64 catches for 916 yards and five touchdowns last year for the Eagles, accounting for 46% of their yards for wide receivers and 45.5% of their receiving touchdowns in 2021. The Eagles had just 1,993 yards from wide receivers in 2021, the third-fewest in the NFL.
The Eagles are expecting a huge leap from Smith in year two with Brown in the fold. Smith was always a primary focus based on his college accolades, yet still found a way to produce despite defensive coordinators keying up to stop him.
That's no longer an option. Sirianni saw this happen once with one of the best wideouts in the game -- and didn't want Smith to suffer the same fate in year two.
"I saw it with Keenan Allen. He had a little bit of a slip from year one to year two, just the fact the defenses were keying on him a little bit more," Sirianni said. "This is going to make that an awful lot harder for defenses to do with the proven commodity like A.J. Brown on the opposite side of him.
"I think when a guy goes into – has a really successful rookie year and goes into his second year, he's not a secret anymore. And no one thought DeVonta was a secret, he won the Heisman Trophy. But there's still a prove it factor for a lot of these defensive coordinators in the NFL.
"I think most definitely this helps, obviously, our passing game and this helps DeVonta. It's just good for the Eagles."