Eagles observations: Can DeVonta Smith get going again?

Roob's observations: Do Eagles need to get Smith going again? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Is DeVonta Smith’s declining production cause for concern? Is it time to give Nakobe Dean some playing time? Is it too early to start thinking about the 2023 draft?

All that and tons more in today’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. It’s been surprising to see the disparity that’s developed between A.J. Brown’s production and DeVonta Smith’s. You can’t blame Hurts for throwing to Brown as much as he has, but Smith has really taken a back seat the past several weeks. The last five games, Brown has 23 catches, 418 yards and five touchdowns and Smith has 25 catches but for only 193 yards and one TD and a long gainer of just 22 yards. That’s 38 yards per game since Week 4 after averaging 83 per game the first three weeks. During these last five games, Brown is averaging 10.8 yards per target and Smith just 6.4. When the season began, I expected to see their production about even, with Brown holding a slight edge. But Brown has just been so dang good and there’s no reason to change anything. Just surprising. Smith is really talented, and I expect to see some more huge games from him in the second half of the season. I know one thing. If defenses allocate too many resources to slowing down Brown, Smith will make them pay.

2. The Eagles are currently the second-highest scoring team in the NFL at 28.1 points per game, trailing only the Chiefs at 30.4. That’s a lot to make up over the last nine games of the season. If the Chiefs maintain that 30.4 figure, the Eagles would have to average 32.4 points per game the rest of the year to surpass them. But if they do, it would be the first time in 73 years the Eagles had the highest-scoring team in football. They led the NFL in scoring in 1944 at 26.7, 1945 at 27.2 and 1949 at 30.3. They were No. 2 in 1947 and 1948 and No. 3 six times, most recently in 2010, 2014 and 2017.

3. I was pretty high on Kyzir White when the season began, and I felt like he was playing at a pretty high level the first month of the season. But I haven’t seen it lately. Pro Football Focus ranks White 109th among linebackers in run defense, 64th in coverage, 113th in pressure  and 100th overall. He’s got no sacks, no interceptions, no QB hits, four pass deflections and one tackle for loss back on opening day. He hasn’t been awful, but he just hasn’t been the impact player we expected. Which leads us to Nakobe Dean. He’s only played four defensive snaps all year, but I’m at the point where I’d like to see Jonathan Gannon mix him in for White here and there. Find a couple packages he’s comfortable in, give him six or eight snaps per game, see how he handles it and then ramp it up if he plays well. If he’s not ready, he’s not ready. But it’s not like White has been a difference maker. Time to give the kid a shot.

4. He’s only played 18 snaps per game in his career, but Kenny Gainwell has the 2nd-most touchdowns in Eagles history by a running back in his first 24 games. Wilbert Montgomery scored 10 and Gainwell has nine. LeSean McCoy and Miles Sanders also had nine in their first 24 games. 

5. If the Eagles go 6-3 or better the rest of the year, Nick Sirianni will knock Rich Kotite out of the Eagles record book. Kotite of all people owns the best record in franchise history by a coach in his first two years at 21-11 in 1991 and 1992 (he was 19-45 as a head coach after that). That’s a .656 winning percentage. To beat that in a 17-game season, you need to go 23-11. The Eagles are 17-8 in two years under Sirianni, so six wins gives him at worst a 23-11 career record, good for a .676 winning percentage. Knocking Kotite out of the record book should be motivation enough for this team to keep winning.

6.  We spend so much time talking about Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert it’s easy to overlook just what a tremendous season Miles Sanders is having. Eight games into his fourth season, he’s 7th in the NFL with 656 rushing yards, 7th with 5.0 yards per carry, 7th with 33 first downs and 5th with five rushing touchdowns. Sanders is healthy and he’s running tough and disciplined. Sanders is averaging 82 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry, and LeSean McCoy in his 2013 all-pro season is the only Eagle to ever hit those marks in a season. Sanders seems to be a lock to become the fourth player in history to begin his career with four straight seasons of 750 yards and at least a 4.6 average. Only Nick Chubb, Gale Sayers and Jim Brown have done that. Pretty good company. Maybe running backs really are interchangeable, but if I’m Howie Roseman I’m finding a way to keep Sanders.

7. The Eagles have won four straight games despite allowing 120 or more rushing yards in all four. They’re only the third team in the last 20 years to do that, joining the 2009 Saints and 2021 Cards. The last team to win five straight games despite allowing at least 120 rushing yards was the 1978 Washington Football Team and before that the 1961 Packers. The Eagles are also one of only two teams in NFL history to be 8-0 despite allowing 5.2 rushing yards per carry. The 2006 Colts – who won the Super Bowl – are the other. Maybe they can keep winning with a terrible run defense. I doubt it, though.

8. Every time I watch the Saints lose and the 1st-round draft pick they sent the Eagles gets better and better, I picture the Eagles drafting Will Anderson, the explosive edge rusher from Alabama. Anderson has 54 ½ tackles for loss and 31 ½ sacks in 37 games over 2 1/2 seasons in Tuscaloosa. Start out with this fact: Howie Roseman has drafted 11 players with a top-20 pick and eight have been offensive or defensive linemen. Going back to 1996, 16 of the Eagles’ 24 1st-round picks have been linemen, so this is a Jeffrey Lurie thing as much as a Howie Roseman thing. It’s an organizational philosophy. Seven of the eight non-linemen were quarterbacks or receivers, and the Eagles aren’t going to draft either of those in the first round in 2023. So if they keep that Saints pick and it really is a top-5 pick, the odds are very good it’ll be a lineman. If it is, who makes more sense than Anderson? Adding him to this defense would be insane. HowieBall.

9. The Cameron Dicker story is truly incredible. He’s played in two NFL games and made two game-winning field goals in the final two minutes in a pair of 20-17 wins for different teams. He’s never played a home game in his life. And he’s never missed a field goal. He’s 4-for-4, making two kicks for the Eagles against the Cards and two Sunday for the Chargers against the Falcons. And he has half a season left to kick for a few of the 30 other teams.

10. I can’t even imagine Nick Foles playing against the Eagles.