There was a point during last week’s game where Darius Slay joked that he was ready to in at wide receiver. The three-time Pro Bowler has the routes down pat after locking up top targets for nine seasons. Vice versa, DeVonta Smith would seem to be a prime candidate to play cornerback on that bizarro world depth chart.
The rookie was asked about playing defense and potentially matching up against Slay. The Philadelphia Eagles leading receiver didn’t mince any words. Smith said he would “lock Slay up” and proclaimed it loud enough for his teammate to hear. Slay immediately took to Twitter and accepted the challenge: “Line that s*** up!” This is the one-on-one matchup everyone needs to see at practice.
Smith is coming off his second-best day as a pro after securing five balls for 116 yards and a touchdown. He would have another score if Jalen Hurts didn’t miss him in the end zone. Pro Football Focus handed him a 92.6 grade for Week 9 while ranking him the third-best pass-catcher in the 2021 draft class behind Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase. He’s been as good as advertised, mainly due to his elite route-running ability.
“As a receiver that’s something that you want to be great at,” Smith said of route running. “Running routes, catching the ball, and then coming in my freshman year of college [at Alabama], I mean the guys I was in the room with … that was kind of what they did, so you seen everybody else doing that and you just kind of want to put that in your game.”
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‘Iron Sharpens Iron’ at Alabama
The other guys in that 2017 Alabama room were all high draft picks: Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Calvin Ridley, with Jaylen Waddle entering the mix in 2018. Not only that, Smith was going up against elite cornerbacks like Patrick Surtain and Trevon Diggs every day in practice.
He’ll take a short trip down Tuscaloosa’s memory lane this week against Denver who drafted Surtain and Jeudy. Smith, who leads the Eagles with 527 receiving yards, will likely be marked by Surtain assuming he’s cleared from a knee injury. Surtain went ninth overall in the 2021 draft, one pick before Smith.
“It was intense, just knowing iron sharpens iron,” Smith said of their college battles. “Going out there every day knowing that I’m going to compete against him every day. He’s going to make me better and I’m going to make him better.”
Exercise Science Major Speaks Up
A recent sideline chat between Smith and teammate Greg Ward went viral after the Detroit Lions game. In it, the rookie can be heard telling Ward to stay away from the massage gun and let the bruise heal by “moving and stretching” it. Turns out, Smith was an Exercise Science major at Alabama.
“If I have an injury I know a little something myself,” Smith said. “That was the story behind it [the video].”
Smith was mic’d up for Week 8 and fans finally got to see his vibrant personality. He’s usually reserved and buttoned up in interviews.
“When I’m on the field I’m a totally different person,” Smith said. “When I get out there on the field I kind of zone out and kind of be the leader that I am. That was just me being me.”