PHILADELPHIA - Not that the sentiment was all that groundbreaking but Nick Sirianni noted that the SEC is the closest thing to the NFL when discussing his rookie receiver DeVonta Smith on Thursday.
"To be honest with you, the SEC is the closest thing to the NFL for a receiver because the coverage is tight in the SEC," the Eagles rookie head coach said when discussing the former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner's transition to the NFL.
Back in Tuscaloosa, the iron that once helped Smith sharpen his game was Cowboys CB1 Trevon Diggs.
The two players were both honored as All-SEC back in 2019. Diggs was also a third-team All-American while Smith was gearing up for his historic 2020 season with the Crimson Tide and his status as the No. 10 overall selection by the Eagles back in April.
Diggs, the brother of Buffalo star receiver Stefon Diggs who has been one of the league's most improved defenders early in the season, is likely going to be Smith's primary defender on Monday night.
The No. 50 overall pick in the 2020 draft, Diggs has two interceptions in Dallas' first two games this season and has added another three pass breakups. He's also allowed just six completions on 12 targets for 91 yards.
"Throughout Trevon’s season last year, you’ve seen the flashes of what he’s capable of doing," Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "Just after two games, he’s been very consistent in the level that he’s played.
"He’s played against top-notch receivers both weeks and he’s matched up against our projected No. 1 receiver, how we’ve viewed it. And he’s got a tremendous, tremendous challenge this week, with the dynamic receiver group from Philadelphia."
A dynamic WR group is led by Smith.
Yes, Quez Watkins has been the Eagles' top deep threat and Jalen Reagor has improved on a so-so rookie season but Smith is the WR1 in any opposing defense's mind, including the Cowboys.
"He’s a very polished receiver," McCarthy said when discussing Smith, who has eight receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown over his first two NFL games. "You recognize the talent and his ability at football and obviously what he did at the University of Alabama, but I really appreciate his route running.
"He’s dynamic with the ball, he’s tough. You’ve seen him scrap there with the run blocking on the second level. He’s got a really good release package. He really has the quickness to generate a nice vertical stem. But the way he sticks his routes and the ability to transition out of the release to the breaking point is very impressive for a young player."
As for Diggs, the Eagles have also taken notice.
"He’s a great player," Reagor said. "He makes plays, but we’re all in the same league. It’s another game. He’s been doing a very good job and I feel like that’s a challenge for us, go out there and compete and finish and ultimately get the job done."
-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 email@example.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.