DeVonta Smith made his preseason debut Thursday night in the Philadelphia Eagles' 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots, days after returning to practice following an MCL injury.
The No. 10 overall pick played 25 snaps, per Next Gen Stats, and said following the game he's feeling good after missing time at camp with the knee injury.
"I think I'm right on schedule," he said, via the team's official website. "I felt good. I just kept attacking rehab. Right now, I'm feeling good."
It took time for Smith to gear up in his first NFL action. His first three targets went awry. He couldn't hang on to his first ball on a late throw from Joe Flacco; his second, the QB-WR timing was off on a back shoulder; and the rookie dropped the third pass -- on a play nullified by penalty.
"I know what I did wrong," Smith said bluntly of his early miscues. "I gotta focus on catching the ball. I mean, that's all it is. Just taking my eyes away too early. I mean, there's nothing else to it. Those are plays I've gotta make."
Smith caught his final two passes, officially earning a box score of two catches on four targets for 19 yards with a long of 10.
"I gotta make the plays they expect me to make," Smith said. "I wouldn't call it rust (from being sidelined). I would just say I wasn't focusing on catching the ball. Trying to look back too fast before I caught the ball. I go to practice every day and work and get on the JUGS (machine). Maybe I need to hit the JUGS more."
The beauty of Smith's debut was in how the targets unfolded, regardless of the results of the plays. The rookie showed smooth route-running ability, generating loads of separation. In the preseason, we're looking for traits that will carry over when the real lights turn on. Smith's ability to break away from defenders with ease on quick cuts and effortless routes is one of those traits that will carry on.
Smith's errors were correctable miscues, not only from the mental aspect but rapport-building with his QBs. That he's clearly hard on himself over the incompletions indicates a positive approach between the ears.
No, he didn't light up the Patriots' defense with some otherworldly play. But the rookie showed plenty of promise and traits that will carry over to the regular season to get excited about his potential in the Eagles' offense.