DeVonta Smith has been a major bright spot for the Philadelphia Eagles this season and the rookie wide receiver was rewarded Saturday night by putting his name in the team’s history books.
Smith passed DeSean Jackson’s rookie record for the most receiving yards in a season, edging Jackson by four yards and finishing the 2021 regular season with 916 in total following the Eagles’52-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The former Heisman Trophy winner totaled 41 yards on three catches in Saturday’s regular season finale, connecting with second string quarterback Gardner Minshew on several occasions in the first half.
The Eagles didn’t have much to play for, but granted Smith the opportunity to play while many other first-choice players were rested for the playoffs.
“As far as [WR] DeVonta [Smith], when I talked to DeVonta earlier in the week, I asked him how important that record is for him, and he said, “I want to do what is best for the team.” But, I know, at some point, he wants that record. So, we were able to get it for him without a lot of risk taken with him. But, again, he is feeling good,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said about playing Smith on Saturday.
“I mean, it kind of feels good just to get it out of the way,” Smith said about breaking the record. “In the beginning, I wasn’t even worried about it, but once it happened, everybody being around me, congratulating me, just kind of felt good.”
Smith has blossomed into a top talent in his first NFL season, leading the Eagles inconsistent receiving corps and coming up with big catches down the stretch during the team’s second-half of the season. The 21-year-old had plenty of pressure to deliver in his rookie campaign, especially after excelling at the University of Alabama and winning two National Championships in Tuscaloosa.
Now the rookie wideout will prepare to play a key role for the Eagles in the NFL Playoffs after Nick Sirianni’s squad earned a wild card berth in Week 17. The Eagles will likely play either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Los Angeles Rams in the first round, both major opportunities for the team to pull an upset and start a new run towards a Super Bowl title.
“It’s big,” Smith said about the significance of playoff football. “It’s big because it’s the next game. You play to continue. Just go out there and get a win to continue playing. I mean, that’s been it the whole time. Get to the playoffs and try to win. Win it all. That’s what it is and that’s what it’s all about. We didn’t come this far just to stop now.”
“It was awesome,” Minshew said about helping Smith breaking the record. “I am really happy for him. He is a great dude and works really hard. He is going to be a really special player so to help him get that, we are all really fired up for him.”
The Eagles will learn their playoff fate after the conclusion of Sunday’s games.