Since joining forces in 2022, Eagles wide receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith have rapidly emerged as one of the NFL’s premier receiving duos. Their combined 2,692 receiving yards last season set a new Eagles record and ranked second league-wide, trailing only Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins, who accumulated 3,006 yards. Notably, they’ve contributed to 79% of the Eagles’ total receiving yards in the first two games of this season, marking the highest percentage in the NFL.
The symmetry in their performance is striking, with both Brown and Smith amassing 15 targets and 11 receptions each. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has maintained an identical average target distance of 14.3 yards to both receivers, as per ESPN Stats & Information.
However, despite their impressive individual and joint efforts, the Eagles’ passing game is currently facing challenges. Opposing defenses have employed unique strategies, such as unscouted looks and deploying multiple defenders in coverage to limit deep passes. Consequently, Philadelphia ranks 29th in passing yards per game (162.5) entering Week 3.
On the flip side, these defensive tactics have left the Eagles with a potent ground game, which gained over 250 yards in their Week 2 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
Amidst these developments, Jalen Hurts expressed his frustration with the focus on the lack of air yards, emphasizing the importance of winning above all else.
Some tension has also emerged within the team. A visibly animated exchange between A.J. Brown and Jalen Hurts during a game led to coach Nick Sirianni intervening. The disagreement stemmed from a play in which Brown was the primary read, but Hurts opted for an alternative target. Brown later clarified that his emotions had flared up, rating the exchange as a minor issue.
In addition to navigating these challenges, both Brown and Smith have embraced leadership roles as first-time captains. Brown, in particular, has been willing to engage in difficult conversations when needed.
DeVonta Smith’s star continues to rise, with Eagles cornerback Darius Slay predicting that he may soon be recognized as the league’s best receiver. Smith showcased his skills in a remarkable performance against the Minnesota Vikings, accumulating 131 yards on four receptions, including two receptions for over 50 yards, one of which resulted in a touchdown.
The Eagles now find themselves with two number-one receivers in Smith, aged 24, and Brown, aged 26. Distributing targets in a run-heavy system, especially with tight end Dallas Goedert playing a significant role, presents a challenge. Moreover, the potential hurdle of Smith’s contract extension looms, raising questions about balancing their salaries with Jalen Hurts’s substantial earnings.
Despite these potential sources of friction, Brown and Smith maintain a healthy relationship built on their friendship and shared experiences leading up to their time in Philadelphia. They prioritize supporting each other and focus on the bigger picture, even when their competitive spirits come to the forefront.
Last season, Smith and Brown etched their names into the Eagles’ record books. They became the first duo in franchise history to each surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, with Smith accumulating 1,196 yards and Brown amassing 1,496. Smith set a single-season receptions record for an Eagle with 95 catches, while Brown secured a team-high in receiving yards.
Their playing styles differ significantly, with Brown’s robust 6-foot-1, 226-pound physique making him a force over the middle, earning him the nickname “Swole Batman.” In contrast, the 6-foot, 170-pound Smith, known as “Skinny Batman,” excels at stretching the field and executing sideline catches.
Their contrasting styles are beginning to blend, with Brown learning from Smith’s precise route-running and Smith benefiting from Brown’s techniques, whether it’s at the line of scrimmage or during contested catches.
Coach Sirianni commended their relationship, highlighting how they can critique and improve each other’s play by discussing it directly on the field.
Both players are no strangers to sharing the field with other elite receivers. Brown played alongside DK Metcalf at Ole Miss, and Smith, during his time at Alabama, was surrounded by talented wide receivers, including Waddle, Jerry Jeudy, and Calvin Ridley.
Navigating the highs and lows of their careers has taught them patience and the importance of seizing opportunities when they arise. Smith emphasized the need to remain prepared for your moment, even when not directly involved in the action.
Despite occasional comparisons, media attention, and the natural competitiveness of their positions, both Brown and Smith value their partnership and appreciate the city of Philadelphia for its support.
In their own words, they are selfless teammates who genuinely care about each other’s success and happiness, knowing that supporting each other ultimately benefits the entire team.
Smith and Brown’s remarkable production has not only rewritten Eagles history but has also illuminated the NFL with their exceptional talents. Regardless of who outshines the other on any given day, they are both recognized as top-tier receivers, making them a formidable force for the Philadelphia Eagles and a thrill to watch for football fans.
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