Eagles rookies DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell give offense hope

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Rookies DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell give offense hope originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Only five rookies in Eagles history had ever caught 13 passes in the first four games of their career.

This year two have done it.

And in a largely miserable first month of the season, rookies DeVonta Smith and Kenny Gainwell are giving Eagles fans some reason for optimism.

Smith and Gainwell, both 22 years old, both had career games Sunday in the Eagles’ 42-30 loss to the Chiefs at the Linc, Smith with 7-for-122 and Gainwell with 89 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

This was the first time in 38 years two Eagles rookies had at least 85 scrimmage yards. It happened in 1983 when running back Michael Williams had 94 and receiver Glen Young had 95 in a 27-20 loss to the Cowboys at the Vet.

Only Keith Jackson, Hank Baskett, Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews have had more receiving yards in a game as rookies than Smith did Sunday. Only Bobby Walston in 1951 and DeSean Jackson in 2008 had more yards through four games than Smith, who has 237.

And no running back in franchise history has had more catches through four games than Gainwell, who has 13. His 198 scrimmage yards are 4th-most through four games by an Eagles RB over the past 35 years, behind only Correll Buckhalter (344 in 2001), LeSean McCoy (224 in 2009) and Miles Sanders (262 in 2019). His 114 receiving yards are most by an Eagles RB in his first four games since Michael Haddix of all people had 117 in 1983.

The only other time the Eagles had two rookies with 198 scrimmage yards four games into a season was 1976 with running backs Herb Lusk and Mike Hogan.

The Eagles really have some intriguing young talent on offense. Jalen Reagor is also 22, and Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor are 23.

And the Eagles have a 23-year-old quarterback in Jalen Hurts who trusts all his young receivers and on Sunday targeted Smith 10 times and Gainwell eight times. 

After years of wondering why the Eagles’ rookie skill guys weren’t producing, Smith ranks second among all rookies this year with 237 receiving yards, 60 behind the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase, and Gainwell’s 13 catches are second-most among rookie running backs, behind the Steelers’ Najee Harris, a 1st-round pick who’s already caught 26 passes. Gainwell is also 4th among all rookie running backs in scrimmage yards.

The Eagles are the only NFL team with two rookies with 10 catches so far. Smith played 68 of 74 snaps Sunday, but Gainwell made the most of just 29 snaps.  

The Eagles netted 461 yards of offense against the Chiefs, and players who are 23 or younger gained 312 of them, with Smith and Gainwell responsible for 211.

It’s early, but Smith and Gainwell are both putting themselves in position to go after some franchise records. 

DeSean Jackson set the Eagles rookie receiving record with 912 yards in 2008, and with a 17-game schedule Smith is on pace to surpass 1,000 yards.

The rookie record for receiving yards by a running back is Miles Sanders’ 509 two years ago, and Gainwell is right around that pace.

Gainwell is one of only four rookies with two or more TDs this year.

In Smith and Gainwell, the Eagles have a couple exciting young weapons who should be making plays for this team for years.

The future is bright. At least on one side of the ball.

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