The 2021 Philadelphia Eagles made a surprise run to the postseason and winning nine games after preseason predictions had them finishing with 6.5 wins. They were blown out by the Buccaneers in the opening round of the playoffs, but first-year head coach Nick Sirianni knew he had something positive to build on.
But he also felt he needed more talent to help quarterback Jalen Hurts continue to develop. With former Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith proving his worth in year one, Sirianni felt he needed someone opposite “Smitty,” to take pressure off of him. On draft night the Eagles went all in on trading for Tennessee Titans disgruntled star receiver AJ Brown.
The team immediately signed the former Ole Miss Rebels star to a four-year, $100 million extension. The whopping salary suggests that Philly believes Brown is top dog, but Brown, in an effort to define roles and make the transition as smooth as possible, is calling Smith wide receiver No. 1.
In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Brown spoke highly of his former SEC rival-turned-teammate.
“In my opinion, Smitty is wide receiver No. 1. He’s a really good route runner. I think the sky is the limit for Smitty.”
The Eagles now have two talented receivers capable of being the team’s top pass-catcher. Hurts, a second-year starter, should be even better than he was last season with the improved artillery.
Smith And Brown Have A Connection
If Smith wasn’t the consummate team player and a high-character guy, trading for another top-flight receiver might have caused some problems. Upon Brown’s arrival, Smith was quick to reach out and welcome him to the city of “Brotherly Love.”
“Smitty reached out to me. I know he’s excited and I’m excited to work with him … He has a lot of talent. He’s a speedster guy. You know, gets in and out of breaks. He’s a great route runner. So he is a special guy and then I’m gonna go and bring more physicality, you know? So I think it’s good.
“It can be really special, man. I’m just glad I can be a part of it. I’m going to do my part and try to just bring what I bring to the table. Like I said, I’m excited and can’t wait.”
Brown makes a great point. The contrasting styles of each player creates a perfect tandem. While Smith beats defenders with elite route running, quickness in and out of breaks, and top-end speed, Brown does his work with strong hands, physical aggression and the ability to win jump balls.
Pressure Is On Hurts To Make It Work
In order for this to work, Hurts’ passing accuracy and deep-throw ability will need to be better than it was last season. In 2021, Hurts showed marked improvement in many areas, but the trade for Brown ups the ante and speeds up his development.
Head coach Nick Sirianni and GM Howie Roseman believe in Hurts, and that showed when they didn’t make a run at new Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
For more information on the Philadelphia Eagles new wide receiver tandem, click here.