By Tom Ignudo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Eagles got pummeled by the New England Patriots, 35-0, Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field. Despite the brutal loss during Week 2 of the preseason, there was one lone bright spot for the Eagles and their fans.

Rookie wideout DeVonta Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy last year, made his debut against the Patriots. He had a rough start to the game, but he caught two passes for 19 yards. 

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On paper, those numbers don’t jump off the page, however, it was more so about how Smith looked while he hauled in both of his receptions. The former Alabama wide receiver displayed route running on both catches that he did consistently throughout his college career to gain separation against defensive backs.

Before he was drafted, NFL.com compared Smith to Atlanta Falcons wideout Calvin Ridley. He’s also drawn comparisons to Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and all-time greats like Marvin Harrison and Issac Bruce.

Smith’s first catch of the contest came at the beginning of the second quarter. He was matched up with Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams on the outside. Immediately, you can see Smith trying to outwork Williams to get open once the ball was snapped.

Later in the second quarter, Smith’s brilliant route running got the best of New England cornerback Michael Jackson Sr. Smith was lined up in the slot. He ran a slant to the middle on the field, but midway through the route, he turned around it cut it to the flat, which left a ton of room for Smith to get open and the defensive back in the dust. Smith hauled in the pass from quarterback Joe Flacco and picked up 10 yards to gain a first down.  

Flacco also missed Smith on his first target of the night. Smith was open Flacco delivered the ball late, which resulted in an incomplete pass.

 

It would’ve been ideal to see Smith link up with quarterback Jalen Hurts on Thursday night, but he was ruled out last minute due to a non-COVID-related illness.  He reportedly went to the hospital with a stomach illness, but head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters after the game that he’ll be OK.

Regardless, it was encouraging to see Smith play the way he did, especially when you consider he just came back from a knee sprain that sidelined him from practice in early August.

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The Eagles haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jeremy Maclin eclipsed that total in 2014. Maybe Smith is the wideout that can finally break that trend.