More Sports:

August 20, 2023

Eagles training camp game ball: DeVonta Smith has a highlight reel day

Continuing with PhillyVoice's 'game ball' training camp series, DeVonta Smith and Brandon Graham had big days at Eagles practice on Sunday morning.

The Birds returned to the field at the NovaCare Complex on a Sunday morning. As we do for every practice during Eagles training camp, PhillyVoice is handing out a "game ball" for one offense and one defensive player on the day. The latest winners need no introductions for Eagles fans. They both had big 2022 performances and are set to repeat that this fall.

Here's more on how DeVonta Smith and Brandon Graham looked at practice...

Offensive game ball: WR DeVonta Smith

The Eagles' passing attack looked especially crisp at practice, resembling the high-flying unit they were last season. The game ball could've easily gone to A.J. Brown or Jalen Hurts himself, but I'm going with Smith here. 

The three biggest Smith highlights on the day:

• Hurts fires a missile into the back of the end zone that Smith hauled in, tip-toeing his way to remain in the field of play. Touchdown.

• Smith is an elite route-runner. He ran a smooth-as-anything comeback route with Josh Jobe helpless in coverage. Easy pickup.

• Brown is typically the slant king in the Eagles' offense, but Hurts found Smith on one where the receiver went up and got the ball at its highest point amidst tight coverage. 

I'm not breaking any news here, but the Eagles' receiver duo is incredible. For those Birds fans who watched Donovan McNabb waste away with a horrendous receiver corps, Brown and Smith make a whole world of a difference for Hurts' development. I would not say that Smith and Brown are the league's top WR combo. I'd give the nod to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, but any rational football observer has to have them in the top three along with Miami's Hill-Will duo and then Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase-Tee Higgins pairing. 

Defensive game ball: DE Brandon Graham

Ahead of a season where he's on pace to break the franchise record for most games played in an Eagles uniform, Graham had his best practice of the summer, picking up two "sacks." One on rep where Hurts continuously rolled around, Graham was there for a would-be sack if this was a full live contact setting. Shortly after, an unblocked Graham would've been in a position to crush Hurts after a fake handoff. Bringing Hurts down in an actual game is a bit different than being in on him for a ceremonial "sack" in practice, but Graham's ability and credentials should not be in doubt. 

Graham played just 474 defensive snaps in 2022. That was his lowest total in a full season of play since his 2013, when he was masquerading as an outside linebacker in former defensive coordinator Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme. He still put up a career-high 11 sacks. Graham, of course, has come a long way from shedding his bust label and playing out of position to becoming one of the most beloved Eagles ever.

It will be hard for Graham to top that 11-sack performance, but I'm sure he's gunning for that double-digit sack count again. If the last 13 years of Graham's career has taught Philadelphia anything though, it's to not count him out. 

Follow Shamus & PhillyVoice on Twitter: @shamus_clancy | @thePhillyVoice

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports

Add Shamus' RSS feed to your feed reader