September 10, 2023
FOXBORO, M.A. — During training camp, PhillyVoice gave out a "game ball" to an Eagles offensive and defensive player after every practice. That's carrying over to the regular season. Here's more on how DeVonta Smith, Darius Slay and, in a new wrinkle, Jake Elliott contributed to the Eagles' 25-20 win over the Patriots...
DeVonta Smith's elite trait is his footwork, which translates to great route-running where he always appears to be in the perfect position for his quarterback. That was on display with his first quarter touchdown catch from Jalen Hurts:
On a day where the Eagles' passing attack was far from their 2022 peak, Smith was integral in the win totaling 47 yards on seven catches. He was smooth coming off his breaks, as his signature comeback route looked as good as it's ever been.
Before the season, the over/under on catches for Smith was 80.5. He had 95 last season. He's on pace for 119 already.
After a lukewarm 2020 season where essentially everything was going wrong for the Birds, Darius Slay began leaving up to his "Big Play Slay" namesake come 2021, making the Pro Bowl squad and having two defensive return touchdowns that each came in Eagles wins.
The Eagles' first forced turnover of 2023 was a pick-6 from Slay. On a throw from Mac Jones that tipped off New England receiver Kendrick Bourne's hands, Slay took that baby 70 yards back to the house to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
Slay loves to joke at practice that he should be getting reps at receiver, and he even did briefly during that "Tuesday Night Football" affair in 2021. He does have legit juice as a playmaker in the open field against offensive dudes who are in a daze and unready for a ball-carrier to be zipping by them.
It changed the complexion of the game. It gave the Eagles breathing room when the offense was in a funk. That built-in lead with a huge boost from the Eagles' defense carried them through that dry spell filled with three-and-outs.
An underrated play from Slay on Sunday...
Midway through the second quarter on what looked like to be an effortless touchdown, Jones looked Bourne's way down the right sideline. Slay illustrated remarkable recovery time in catching up with the receiver. Jones under threw it a bit, but Slay got his hands on the ball and disrupted what could've been a massive gain.
If Week 1 is any indication of how this season will go for the Eagles, they're going to be susceptible to throws over the middle with shaky linebacker and safety play. It's even more important for Slay to be locking down opponents' top passing targets given that.
During training camp, I didn't give a special teams game ball out, but I'm making a point to add one for Jake Elliott after this performance. The Eagles' offense was sluggish and he did have a missed extra-point attempt during the rainy portion of this game, but he got the job done. Elliott was four-for-four on field goals of 32, 56, 48 and 51 yards. He deserves his flowers.
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