Eagles’ DeVonta Smith already learning from Darius Slay

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DeVonta Smith already getting tips from Darius Slay originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles are just a couple weeks into their offseason program and they’re already witnessing the work ethic that made DeVonta Smith a top 10 pick.

And it doesn’t end when the whistle blows.

Because after practices, a group of Eagles players have been staying after to exchange tips, according veteran receiver Greg Ward Jr. Among those in the group? Smith and Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay.

“I’m one of the premier corners in this game, been for a long time, I just want to give him little tips,” Slay said Wednesday. “I want him to be the best he can possibly be, him and [Ward]. Anything they ask me, I’ll never hide information from them. My goal is to get them better and my goal is to get me better.

“We’re out there talking good ball, man, just trying to find a way to get each other better and be great for this Eagles team. He’s got a lot of upside, man. I’m looking forward to seeing both of them this year doing dangerous things. I’m very excited.”

Sometimes Smith will ask Slay a question. Sometimes Slay will pull the rookie aside.

It’s a high level football conversation between two players who have immense knowledge of the game. As he enters the NFL, Smith is known as a very precise and deliberate route runner, already with veteran savvy. And Slay is considered one of the stickiest cover guys in the league, with three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro nod to prove it.

“If he asks me, ‘Slay if you’re outside leverage, what you feeling? What would make you overcommit?’ Or if I’m inside leverage, ‘What would make you do this?’ I give him all the pointers that I know and I’ll learn from a lot of guys that’s in this league to help him advance his game,” Slay said.

For Smith, it’s probably not all that unlike the working relationship he had with fellow top 10 pick Patrick Surtain II, who actually went one spot ahead of him at No. 9 to the Broncos.

While Smith and Surtain saw plenty of good players as they competed in the SEC, their stiffest competition might have come during practice at Tuscaloosa.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Surtain said in an interview with NFL Network before the draft. “Coming into Alabama you expect that, hard work, competing against each other every day. Me and Smitty had great battles each and every day in practice and at the end of the day we got each other better. The position we’re in now, we just look back at it like it was worth it."

The Eagles have a young and inexperienced group of receivers for the 2021 season. Ward, who fought his way on the roster from the practice squad just a couple seasons ago, is by far the most experienced receiver on the roster.

So the Eagles are going to rely on Smith from Day 1. If all goes to plan, he’ll be their No. 1 option as a rookie and the hope is that he’ll be a star. If he makes that type of transition, he’ll probably credit all the work he’s put in.

Ward on Wednesday said Smith’s work ethic is “crazy.”

That includes those meetings after practice with the receivers, Jalen Hurts, Slay and others.

“It shows you that he’s hungry, that he’s not satisfied with going first round, he’s not satisfied with what he did in the past,” Ward said. “He’s looking forward and he has his foot on the pedal right now and that’s all we can ask for.”

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