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August 21, 2021

Random Eagles notes: DeVonta Smith's route running, and the upcoming schedule

Following the Philadelphia Eagles' second preseason game against the New England Patriots on Thursday night, I had planned to re-watch the game on Friday, and highlight a standout player Saturday morning. But, sorry, I'm not re-watching that game, and you can't make me. Instead, here are some random thoughts about the team.

DeVonta Smith's route running

Smith had a couple of drops, but he looked good as a route runner, as someone showed below (h/t reddit/eagles) in a cutup of his routes. One of Smith's best traits coming out of Alabama was his route running, so we already kind of knew the kid could run a route, but here's a quick sampling.

What interested me about that video (the dramatic music aside) is that Smith mostly lined up as the "X" receiver, or the receiver up on the line of scrimmage. If you're going to play the "X" position in the NFL, you have to be able to consistently beat press coverage, which is something that can often prove to be difficult for smaller wide receivers. At under 170 pounds, Smith obviously qualifies as that. However, there are a lot of different ways to beat press coverage in the NFL, and if Smith is able to do so, he will do so with quick feet and deception. 

Another skinny wide receiver who played the "X" position and was able to consistently beat press was Chad Johnson, and, well, he was impressed with Smith.

What should we make of the Eagles' preseason results so far?

The Eagles are 0-2 in the preseason. After the first preseason game, Nick Sirianni said that he thought the play was crisp in the first half, but sloppy in the second half, an assessment I agree with. Obviously, the important players played in the first half, and a lot of guys who won't be on the team much longer played in the second half.

In the second preseason game, they Eagles played like dog poop. In fairness, Jalen Hurts was a surprise scratch, while three starting offensive linemen and the entire first-team defensive line, among others, were held out. It's concerning that they played so badly and lost 35-0, because some of the guys who did play are going to be key contributors this season. It's also fair to note that the Eagles generally outplayed the Pats during joint practices on Monday and Tuesday. 

The Eagles have also been upfront that they believe that they have an advantage because Nick Sirianni is a first-time head coach, and Jonathan Gannon is first-time defensive coordinator, and teams will have difficulty game planning for them early in the season. In other words, it would be stupid for them to give much away in games that don't matter.

Out of curiosity, I looked up how teams that went winless during the preseason fared during the regular season. There were 24 of them the last 10 preseasons (2010-2019):

Year Team Regular season 
2019 Jaguars 6-10 
2019 Lions 3-12-1 
2018 Titans 9-7 
2018 Cowboys 10-6 
2018 Falcons 7-9 
2018 Seahawks 10-6 
2017 Raiders 6-10 
2017 Falcons 10-6 
2016 Browns 1-15 
2016 Saints 7-9 
2015 Saints 7-9 
2015 Rams 7-9 
2014 Colts 11-5 
2014 Cowboys 12-4 
2013 Steelers 8-8 
2013 Falcons 4-12 
2012 Bills 6-10 
2012 Dolphins 7-9 
2012 Jets 6-10 
2011 Raiders 8-8 
2011 Chiefs 7-9 
2011 Falcons 10-6 
2010 Colts 10-6 
2010 Bears 11-5 
TOTAL 24 teams 183-200-1 (0.478) 

As you can see, there's nothing outrageously concerning there. The Eagles may very well be bad in 2021 (I think they probably will be), but I don't think the first two preseason games have much bearing on what they will be.

Upcoming schedule

Sunday: Open practice at Lincoln Financial field, 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday: Teams must cut down to 80 players.

Tuesday and Wednesday: Joint practices with the Jets. These will be the final media-attended practices of the 2021 year, so no more practice notes after Wednesday.

Friday: Eagles at Jets, preseason game No. 3. To note, Eagles-Jets has traditionally been "The Scrub Game," played by third stringers. With only three preseason games going forward, and a 16-day gap in between this game and Sunday of Week 1, the starters will likely play.

Next Tuesday (Aug 31): Final cuts.

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