LANDOVER, Md. - Two weeks ago DeVonta Smith was getting shut out in Detriot, the first time the talented second-year receiver did not catch a football in either his professional or college career, the latter of which ended with the Heisman Trophy at Alabama.
“Obviously, DeVonta is a premier player in this league, and did I think in a million years he wouldn’t have a catch? Absolutely not,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said days after the season-opening win in Detroit. “I did not think it was going to go that way. But that’s my job, I’ve got to get him the ball."
Steichen has lived up to his words. Against Minnesota in Week 2, Smith got the first target in the scripted openers.
By halftime on Sunday in what turned out to be an easy 24-8 win over Washington, Smith had already matched his career-high in receptions with seven and had accumulated a new standard with 156 yards, including a brilliant leaping two-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts, victimizing Kendall Fuller on the final play of the first half.
Moments earlier Smith also beat Fuller for a 44-yard gain to the 1-yard line to set up the score, one in which the second-year star was shaken up.
“I recommend that nobody do that,” Smith smiled after the dominating 24-8 win. When pressed what took the hit on his body, the second-year star said “everything.”
While Smith was getting his bearings, the Eagles tried to punch it in by hitting A.J. Brown on a slant before a shuffle pass to Jack Stoll was stopped and finally, a keeper by Jalen Hurts lost a yard.
Nick Sirianni could have played it safe by taking a Jake Elliott field goal and a comfortable 20-0 edge into the locker room but a walk-off TD felt better and so it was back to Smith, who had the hot hand.
“I just had to catch my breath,” Smith said. “I knocked the wind out of myself and had to catch my breath, that’s all.”
Perhaps it was apropos that the TD was breathtaking.
Sirianni and offensive coordinator Steichen went to a play that wasn’t even in the game plan.
“It was a play that we necessarily haven’t talked about in a minute but everybody just being on the same page,” said Smith. “We had ran it before but it wasn’t necessarily in the game plan. That comes down to our coaches trusting us to go out there and execute whatever they call.”
That trust was rewarded by Smith’s skill and patience.
“You gotta make the most of your opportunities,” said Smith. “You may have a game like [Detroit] where you don’t get the ball or you don’t get your opportunities but when they come, you gotta make the most of them.
Sunday in Landover was a Smitty Day with eight receptions for 169 yards and four of the Eagles' nine explosive passing plays.
"That's who he is," Hurts said. "He's a great player, all-around player, Slim Reaper. By the eyes he may be a little sly but he plays like a big boy and he is. He's a grown man."
"At the end of the day it's about matchups in this league," the coach said. "Can you win a majority of your one-on-one matchups? ... fourth down in the red zone we get a stop on us and we gotta win vs. tight man-to-man and DeVonta goes up and makes a big-time play.
"That shows you who DeVonta Smith is. He didn't have a catch in the first game and all he did was come back to work and figure out how to get it done in the next game and had a huge game [against Minnesota] and an even bigger game [against the Commanders].
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Sports. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talker Jody McDonald, every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com and JAKIBSports.com. You can reach John at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen