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DeVonta Smith Not Catching on Lately, but Nick Sirianni Understands

The Eagles rookie WR is having an issue with drops but the Eagles coach, a former WR, doesn't want it overblown

PHILADELPHIA – Don't make too much of it.

That's the sentiment Nick Sirianni expressed when asked about DeVonta Smith's recent issues with dropping the football.

The rookie receiver failed to get going on the Eagles' first scripted play on Sunday in Detroit, mishandling a well-delivered Jalen Hurts' throw over the middle.

During the previous week's game in Las Vegas, Smith had another egregious drop and had opportunities at two others that weren't on the money but passes you might expect the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL Draft to make.

As a former receiver himself Sirianni explained that the miscues needed to be pointed out but not harped on, a delicate tightrope.

"I played wide receiver, and so when you have a couple drops in a couple games back-to-back, my experience with wide receivers and my experience as a wide receiver individually, is that you don't want to go there," the coach said. "You want to fix the issues that happen. You want to fix the technique that happened with it. But you don't want to make a big deal about it."

Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen expressed similar thoughts on Tuesday when SI.com's EagleMaven asked about Smith's recent slump.

"I think like Nick said the other day, you don't want to harp on drops," said Steichen. "Those things happen. Things in football happen. You get some drops. It’s alright, you just keep working through it and you correct it and you get the techniques right. We're not worried about drops. DeVonta is a heck of a football player."

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The Eagles' coaching staff doesn't want the player thinking too much about negative outcomes which could create a self-fulfilling case of the yips.

With Smith, Sirianni noted that the drops have come at his midsection, an area where a WR may want his thumbs together or pinkies, an in-between split-second decision.

"It's just duplicating the style of catch that he dropped, which has been right in that midsection because sometimes when it's right in that place you're like, 'Do I want to put my pinkies together? Do I want to put my thumbs together?'" Sirianni explained. "Sometimes you get into [a bad habit] where you're not [doing] either one of them. So it's just correcting and attacking that spot that he had a couple drops with. So I'm confident he'll get out of that rut."

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The Eagles trounced the winless Lions 44-6 and Philadelphia threw just 16 times in the game with Smith only being targeted twice after the opening drop.

His one reception for 15 yards was his worst performance to date from a statistical standpoint and perhaps the lack of traffic is creating a sense of urgency in which Smith is trying to force things, at least a bit.

"I want DeVonta to catch the ball really bad on first-and-10, first play of the game," Sirianni said. "You want Devonta to catch the ball really bad. The fans want DeVonta to catch the ball really bad. But nobody wants to catch the ball more than DeVonta wants to catch that ball."

Sirianni's understanding of a WR's thought process is why he isn't a taskmaster when it comes to the drop.

"That's just a spot with wide receiver play that I've never [screamed], 'Catch the ball' and getting mad at a guy for not catching the ball," he said. "You fix what's wrong fundamentally and move on.

"It's been my experience to never dwell on a drop. You just try to build that confidence back up. ... fix the technique and move on."

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Smith has been the Eagles' best WR with 33 receptions for 421 yards and one touchdown over eight games. Over the traditional 16-game season which has been extended to 17 games for the first time, 66 receptions for 842 yards aren't bad numbers for a rookie but expectations were higher after a historic season at Alabama.

When it comes to 2021 rookies Smith's production is behind only Cincinnati WR Ja'Marr Chase (786 yards, seven TDs) and Atlanta flex TE Kyle Pitts (484 yards), players who were chosen before Smith and have volume passers throwing to them in Joe Burrow and Matt Ryan, respectively.

Hurts is not that type of QB right now and the Eagles realize that factors in as well.

"He knows he has good hands, he knows he has great hands," Sirianni said of Smith. "We have a lot of confidence in him."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.