A.J. Brown was the star of the show Sunday for the Eagles.
Much-deserved praise came from everywhere — fans, haters, coaches, the Eagles roster, media. After all, Brown had 10 catches for 155 yards against Detroit and looked like one of the NFL’s best receivers.
His running mate at wide receiver, DeVonta Smith, had a surprisingly barren stat sheet — four targets, zero catches.
The NFL is not a democracy. All things are not created equal. Some days, one player will be the go-to standout and maybe he’ll have the same opportunity the following week, too. And so on. Sunday was Brown’s day, not Smith’s.
Smith is too valuable an athlete to use as a decoy, which appeared to happen several times last year, too. In the Detroit game, long periods of time would elapse and you would forget that Smith was in the game.
Smith accomplished something Sunday he didn’t do all of last season — zero catches. Smith caught a pass in all 17 games last year. His lowest output last season was one catch against … the Lions.
GREAT ROOKIE SEASON
Smith was the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2021, 10th overall.
He had an outstanding rookie season, with 64 catches for 916 yards and five touchdowns. His speed is gifted and his precise route-running a pleasure and treasure for Jalen Hurts and the offense.
Smith was considered the “1A” to Brown’s “1” in what potentially could be a devastating passing game — a duo of weapons largely unfamiliar to Eagles fans who might have grown up with James Thrash and Todd Pinkston.
So, where was he against the Lions?
Not to worry, said often-optimistic Eagles coach Nick Sirianni.
“We must [get Smith and others involved],” Sirianni said. “We have to because you never want to be one-dimensional and let them say, ‘Hey, we are taking this away or taking that away.’
“DeVonta Smith is not a good playmaker; [he’s] a great playmaker. I think everybody in this city saw that on hand last year.”
CALLING THE PLAYS
The Eagles put up 38 points against the Lions, 31 by the offense and another seven on a James Bradberry Pick-6.
“There [are] so many good things we did, but coming away, you’re like, DeVonta Smith didn’t get any catches,” Sirianni said.
“Sometimes you don’t feel that in the game. He has to touch the ball. There’s no doubt about it. He has to touch the ball, and it’s just the way the game went.”
As the architects of the offense, Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen are responsible for the game plan and calling the plays.
If Smith doesn’t see the ball, it’s probably not his fault.
Hey, we’re not nit-picking. The Eagles scored a ton of points — last season they exceeded 38 points only twice. But when one of your main offensive weapons has so few targets, the question needs to be asked: Why?
Brown talked about the benefits of getting the ball early against the Lions. “I like to try to touch the ball as early as I can,” Brown said. “I just get going quick.”
- “When we looked at it, he did have the four targets, but there was a handful of other things that were called for him,” Sirianni said …
- “Again, there are multiple reasons why it didn’t. A lot of these plays were still run through him. It just, for whatever reason, it seemed to time up perfectly: A.J. had this huge game and DeVonta didn’t touch the ball at all; oh, my goodness, they are never going to use DeVonta Smith again.
- “I can promise you that’s not the case. Him, A.J. and Dallas [Goedert] are who the offense will run through, who the pass offense will run through, and it just was the perfect storm yesterday … where he didn’t get any touches.
- “And hey, that’s my job, though, to make sure that he gets the touches, and we’ll fix that. But a lot was still planned for him.”
Winning soothes many pains and anxieties. Winning locker rooms tend to be joyous settings, neither the time nor place for whining about a lack of action. Take the win, fix up things and move forward.
- “You come away from that game and I felt good,” Sirianni said. “I told the offense, we did so many good things.
- “I came out of that game thinking, OK, we have communication issues to clean up but man, we ran the ball well.
- “We were pretty efficient passing the ball. We were great on third down. We were really good in the red zone.
- “We had a really good two-minute drive to get points at the end of the half. When you end with the ball in your hand in a four-minute drive, that is huge, huge, huge.”
One game without a catch for Smith might be an aberration, as Sirianni implied. One game in, it’s a blip. We’ll see if it becomes a pattern.