DeVonta Smith embraces supporting role on 8-0 Eagles

DeVonta Smith is more concerned with wins than catches.

Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, was expected to be an elite wide receiver.

Smith had an outstanding rookie season with 64 catches for 916 yards and five touchdowns, helping the Philadelphia Eagles reach the playoffs. He’s on pace for 85 catches, 939 yards and four TDs this season but has taken more of a supporting role following the arrival of A.J. Brown.

That’s just fine with Smith, because the Eagles are 8-0.

“I feel like it was a good thing for us,” Smith said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “For us, last year having probably the youngest receiving room in the league, guys just out there not really understanding things going on, not really being in a situation before, so having guys like A.J. and Zach (Pascal) come along, older guys that have been there before to kind of help us out.”

Brown, a Pro Bowl wideout acquired from Tennessee, has opened up the passing attack for Philadelphia and helped quarterback Jalen Hurts elevate his game. Brown has 43 catches for 718 yards and six TDs.

The Eagles haven’t had a wideout reach 1,000 yards receiving since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

Smith had 10 catches against Arizona in Week 5 but only 12 in the last three games. Brown and tight end Dallas Goedert are getting more targets. Don’t expect Smith to complain.

“He’s been great. He’s selfless. He knows that his time is going to come around again,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “It’s an ultimate team game, and we’re in it to win football games."

The Eagles turned their season around last year when they committed to running the ball, becoming the league’s top rushing offense. They’ve improved from 25th to ninth in passing this season and they’re sixth in rushing.

“As a receiver, you know that if you run the ball good, it sets up the shot plays,” Smith said. “So when we run the ball good, as a receiver, you get happy because you know sooner or later the deep pass is going to be called and you’re ready for it.”

One of Smith’s biggest passions outside football is fashion. He’s known for showing up to the stadium in stylish suits and custom fits. Last year, Dick’s Sporting Goods chose Smith to be the first and only face of VRST, a men’s athletic and lifestyle apparel brand.

“It means a lot to me because I always wanted to go kind of go my separate way to being somewhere where there’s not a lot of people, where I could be the only person just so I can have that effect to be able to voice my opinion,” Smith said. “And with VRST, I get that. We work hand-in-hand. If there’s something that they like, they come to me with ideas. I come to them with ideas. It’s working out great and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi

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Rob Maaddi, The Associated Press