More Sports:

January 23, 2022

Eagles mailbag: What kind of production might DeVonta Smith have had in a better passing offense?

Eagles NFL
DeVonta_Smith_Eagles_Giants_1226211_Kate_Frese129.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 26: DeVonta Smith #6 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks off the field during the game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In our Eagles chat on Friday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Birger Jarl: I feel like DeVonta Smith could’ve put up huge numbers with a better, more traditional passing quarterback. Thoughts?

Smith finished 30th in the NFL with 916 receiving yards in his rookie season, which was a good start to his career, especially for a player in a run-heavy offense catching passes from a quarterback who is limited in his abilities as a passer. 

I've been curious where Smith stood league-wide in terms of percentage of his team's receiving yards, and this question gave me a reason to figure that out. He ranked 17th.

Player Rec yards Percentage of team's rec yards 
Cooper Kupp, Rams 1947 39.79% 
Justin Jefferson, Vikings 1616 36.31% 
 Davante Adams, Packers1553 34.31% 
D.J. Moore, Panthers 1157 32.38% 
Mark Andrews, Ravens 1361 31.9% 
Deebo Samuel, 49ers  1405 31.67% 
 Tyler Lockett, Seahawks1175 30.8% 
Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals 1455 30.27% 
Michael Pittman, Colts1082 30.16% 
Darnell Mooney, Bears 1055 29.02% 
Diontae Johnson, Steelers 1195 28.9% 
Brandin Cooks, Texans 1037 28.57% 
Terry McLaurin, WFT 1053 28.11% 
Stefon Diggs, Bills 1285 27.53% 
Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins 1015 25.78% 
Kyle Pitts, Falcons 1026 25.73% 
DeVonta Smith, Eagles 916 25.55% 

The short answer is yes, of course Smith's numbers suffered because of the Eagles' run-heavy style of play.

Looking at the list of receivers above, I think Smith, Cooks, McLaurin, and Pittman were all sort of in the same boat, in that they (a) played in weaker passing offenses, and (b) were clearly their team's best receiver, thus drawing the most attention from opposing defenses.

However, Cooks (134 targets), McLaurin (130), and Pittman (129) got substantially more targets than Smith (104). His 104 targets in 2021 ranked 34th in the NFL. He was underused on a team without a lot of complementary options in the passing game. So that didn't help either.

On most other teams, would Smith have put up better numbers? Very likely, yes. It'll be interesting to see if he becomes frustrated with his usage if the same trend continues in 2022.

Question from GoBirds: I know with Jason Kelce's return uncertain, it’s tough to say, but if you had to make a guess, what’s the starting five on the Eagles' offensive line in the opener next year?

Using only players already on the roster, I'll give you Kelce and non-Kelce versions. The "Kelce returns" version:

Jordan Mailata Isaac Seumalo Jason Kelce Landon Dickerson Lane Johnson 

The "Kelce retires" version:

Jordan Mailata Isaac Seumalo Landon Dickerson Jack Driscoll Lane Johnson 

As stated repeatedly here, I think Brandon Brooks will retire this offseason.

Question from Mondor: If the Eagles received the Carson Wentz offer for Hurts this offseason (3rd this year, same rules for conditional 2nd/1st next year), do you think they would/should take it?

In half a heartbeat.

Question from Billy: What do you make of Kenny Pickett's little hands? Maybe if they Brady the footballs down a bit, it's not a problem. The Eagles can line up a dozen schmoes like me as "equipment manager" to take the fall.

I think it matters, but it's overrated. Joe Burrow's hand size is in the 8th percentile among quarterbacks.

He looked fine throwing the ball in the cold on Saturday. At the same time, if Pickett's hand size dips below the 9 inch "Burrow threshold," that will turn some teams off. Pickett will compete at the Senior Bowl next week. You can bet that when the official measurements are released, the first player that many scouts will look for is Pickett to see his hand measurement.

Question from Mig: If the Eagles pick a DE in the first round, who goes on the bench, Josh Sweat or Brandon Graham?

That's the beauty of drafting edge rushers. You don't have to look at it that way. They can all play plenty.

Question from Boo boo jeffries: Recently had a panel voting for NFL awards and Jordan Mailata got one vote for offensive player of the year. Is this a homer giving the big guy some shine or was he actually that good this past season?

Ha, I hadn't seen that, but here it is. It looks like each voter picked five players, and Mailata got one fifth-place vote. Mailata had a really good season, and I thought it was absurd that he wasn't even a Pro Bowl alternate, but he would not be in my five offensive players of the year list.

Question from Pleekly: What is more likely? Carson is on the Indy roster Week 1 next season, or Jalen Reagor is on the Eagles' roster Week 1?

This is going to sound crazy, but I would take Reagor here. Indy's roster is too good to waste on another season of Wentz. It'll be difficult for them to make a big, splashy move at quarterback, since they don't have a first-round pick, but Wentz isn't the answer, and I think they realize that already after just one season.

Meanwhile, Reagor plays on a team with only two legitimate NFL receivers, and he has some additional security in that the GM who picked him in the first round has full control over the 53-man roster, and does not like to admit mistakes until he has exhausted every last sliver of hope from high picks. Reagor will almost certainly be back in training camp in 2022, despite how bad he has been, and he'll make juuuust enough plays this summer to fool the staff and front office for at least one more year.

Question from Brian: I know the Eagles benefited from the new playoff format but I’d say the previous one was perfect. What say you Jimmy?

I liked the old format better. I think it should be hard to make the playoffs, and you have teams like this year's Eagles and Steelers — and last year's Bears — who really didn't deserve to be there.

Question from TheGhostOfNormVanBrocklin: Could you see the Eagles trading up in the first round for one of the big name DEs (Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson, specifically)?

If you're trading up for guys like Thibodeaux or Hutchinson, you're probably moving into the top 5, and the cost for that would simply be too outrageous. Those guys are very good prospects, but they're not on the same level as, say, Chase Young, when he came out a couple years ago.

Question from Pragmatic: How long before we hear how talented Dallas is this upcoming season, and how this season feels special... AGAIN?

I would say that after a devastating loss like the one Dallas just suffered will delay the hype machine until after the draft, in May. But as always, it's right around the corner.

Follow Jimmy & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @JimmyKempski | thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Jimmy's RSS feed to your feed reader