DeVonta Smith made his NFL preseason debut Thursday night after missing the Eagles’ exhibition opener the week before with a knee injury.
It wasn’t a perfect debut for the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. His coach, Nick Sirianni, thought the rookie looked “a bit antsy” in the first quarter.
“He dropped a couple of balls and he was a little late with his eyes on the deep ball that Joe [Flacco] threw him,” Sirianni told reporters after the game. “That’s what happens with young wideouts. They’ve got to play. They’ve got to go through the ups and downs a little bit.”
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That said, Sirianni was impressed with one aspect of Smith’s game: his route running.
“He ran a good route on that return route on a third down,” he said. “I thought he ran a couple of other good routes too.”
Smith did show well in that area. He gained a lot of separation on his first reception, which came at the beginning of the second quarter. That allowed him to pick up yards after the catch.
Shortly after that came the return route Sirianni referenced. Smith ran it to perfection against Patriots cornerback Michael Jackson and once again found himself wide open. He picked up the first down with ease.
Smith finished the game with those two catches and 19 yards. While Sirianni was impressed with the receptions, he was, above all else, pleased that Smith was on the field.
“I’m glad he got in there and was able to play a good, meaningful first half and take a couple hits and have to go against a couple of those tight coverage looks,” Sirianni said.
Smith echoed his coach’s sentiment. He was just happy to play.
“It felt good to get out there to just get back out there and get back in the groove,” Smith said. “Just my routine before the game and things like that. Just get back out there and get back to myself.”
And how did Smith’s injured knee feel after the game?
“I feel good,” Smith said. “I just kept attacking my rehab. Right now, I’m feeling good.”
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