Reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith gets another shot at a team that passed on him in the draft when the Philadelphia Eagles welcome the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon in a battle of Week 1 winners.
The wide out debuted for the Eagles (1-0) in their 32-6 win at Atlanta last Sunday, contributing six catches for 71 yards, including an 18-yard hook up with Jalen Hurts that produced Philadelphia’s first points of the season.
The 49ers (1-0) opened with an impressive offensive showing on the road, getting 189 receiving yards and a touchdown from Deebo Samuel in a 41-33 victory at Detroit.
The Falcons and 49ers entered the April draft with concerns at wideout. Atlanta was on the verge of trading longtime standout Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans, while San Francisco was coming off a season in which its top pass-catcher — Brandon Aiyuk — totaled just 748 receiving yards on 60 receptions.
The 49ers opted for quarterback Trey Lance with the No. 3 selection. Lance debuted against the Lions as a backup, a role in which he threw a 5-yard touchdown pass on his only attempt. He saw action on just three other plays, rushing for 2 yards on three attempts.
The Falcons indeed plucked a pass catcher one pick later. But it was Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who was limited to four catches for 31 yards in his duel with Smith in the opener.
Smith went 10th to the Eagles, which will give the former Alabama standout six personal incentives this season to show what teams missed out on by selecting other players. Philadelphia doesn’t play Jacksonville, Cincinnati or Miami in 2021, three other teams that went elsewhere on the draft board.
Smith won’t be the only Eagles player performing before the Philadelphia fans for the first time this week. New head coach Nick Sirianni looks forward to the hometown fans’ reaction to his unbeaten squad.
“What a great football city this is. Fans are the best in the NFL,” Sirianni said. “Super excited to feel that energy, to feel that energy when we come out. I’m going to be looking at that screen when Rocky comes on and Adrian says, ‘Win,’ and everybody gets juiced up. I’m going to have some energy when I see that.”
A home crowd filled with energy last week at Detroit was quickly quieted. Lance threw his touchdown pass to Trent Sherfield in the game’s 10th minute, and San Francisco led 31-10 by halftime.
Before the game ended, the 49ers found themselves holding on for dear life, in part because two key players — running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Jason Verrett – came away with season-ending injuries.
Rookie Elijah Mitchell stepped in for Mostert and delivered 104 rushing yards and a touchdown in the 49ers’ win, and he can expect a deeper supporting cast this week. Rookie running back Trey Sermon is expected to make his NFL debut. He was inactive for the opener.
“I have a lot of confidence in (JaMycal) Hasty, and same with Trey (Sermon). He’ll get his opportunity now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan noted. “It’s always that way in the league, especially with running backs. It’s next man up, and we expect those guys to not miss a beat.”
The Eagles have won the last two meetings with the 49ers, including 25-20 in Week 4 last October at San Francisco.
–Field Level Media
The Philadelphia Eagles signed left tackle Jordan Mailata to a four-year contract extension Saturday with multiple outlets reporting the deal is valued at $64 million.
The contract for the 6-foot-8, 365-pounder is reportedly worth $40.85 million guaranteed, while it could reach up to $80 million with incentives.
“Excited to be here for another four years representing this team and city,” Mailata said in a video posted to Twitter. “I can’t wait to keep representing my family, and everything I have in me, give it to you guys to get this championship (this) year. Remember, go Birds baby.”
The 24-year-old native of Australia, who grew up playing rugby, had no high school or college experience when he was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles in 2018. He attracted NFL attention from clips of his rugby exploits.
Mailata did not play in a game in 2018 with his season ultimately cut short by a back injury. A back issue also kept him out of the entire 2019 season. He finally made his NFL debut in 2020 and made his first start in Week 4 of last season, eventually starting 10 of his first 15 games.
The Eagles open the season Sunday against the host Atlanta Falcons.
–Field Level Media
The Philadelphia Eagles are concerned that tight end Jason Croom could be out for the season with a knee injury sustained in Thursday night’s game, NFL Network reported Friday.
He was carted off the field with an air cast on his right leg after going down with a non-contact injury in the first half of a 35-0 preseason loss to the visiting New England Patriots.
Croom, 27, is having an MRI to confirm the extent of his injury, per the report.
He caught one pass in four games with Philadelphia last season, a 3-yard touchdown in a 30-28 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 18.
Undrafted out of Tennessee in 2017, Croom played in 15 games (three starts) for the Buffalo Bills in 2018 and posted 22 receptions for 259 yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles have Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers on the tight end depth chart. Earlier this week, Philadelphia lost tight end Tyree Jackson for at least two months with a back injury.
On Saturday, they waived Caleb Wilson, a tight end primarily used on special teams in five games last season.
–Field Level Media
The New England Patriots stopped a potential game-tying two-point conversion with 1:26 remaining, then got a 91-yard touchdown run from Rhamondre Stevenson moments later to seal a 22-13 win over the Washington Football Team in Foxborough, Mass.
The game was the preseason opener for both teams.
With Washington down 15-13 after Steven Montez’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Lamar Miller, Montez’s two-point pass to Antonio Gandy-Golden was originally ruled as a catch and conversion. However, after a video review, the catch was overturned.
New England added insurance when Stevenson dashed for his long score three plays later. Stevenson scored a 1-yard touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter and had a game-high 127 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones was 13 of 19 for 87 yards. Cam Newton started the game for New England and was 4-for-7 for 49 yards over two possessions. Montez finished 17 of 24 for 108 yards, with one touchdown pass and one interception.
Steelers 24, Eagles 16
Pittsburgh scored the only 17 points of the second half to complete a come-from-behind win at Philadelphia in the teams’ preseason opener.
The Eagles built a 16-7 halftime lead before losing control after halftime. Joe Flacco completed 10 of 17 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown while his Philadelphia teammate Jalen Hurts went 3-for-7 for 54 yards.
The Steelers ran nearly twice as many offensive plays (80-42) and controlled the clock (41:18 to 18:42) while getting lots of players long looks. Four running backs had at least seven carries, and Dwayne Haskins completed 16 of 22 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown.
At halftime, the Eagles announced that Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan would be the newest inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame.
–Field Level Media
The Philadelphia Eagles boosted their offensive line depth Wednesday by signing veteran tackle Le’Raven Clark.
Clark, 28, played for first-year Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni when Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018-20.
A third-round pick by Indianapolis in 2016, Clark started 15 of his 47 games with the Colts.
He played in 12 games (three starts) last season before sustaining a torn Achilles in Week 13. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 9.
–Field Level Media
Former Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson didn’t stay on the open market long, getting claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, the team announced.
Johnson was waived by the Lions on Thursday. The former second-round pick in 2018 from Auburn was seemingly expendable with Detroit selecting D’Andre Swift last year at No. 35 overall, picking up Jamaal Williams earlier this offseason and drafting Jermar Jefferson late in this year’s draft.
Johnson may not get much of an opportunity in Philadelphia with a backfield that sports Miles Sanders, rookie Kenny Gainwell, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. As was the case last season, Sanders will likely be the lead running back with the rest vying for time behind him.
Gainwell was taken in the fifth round last week, but is seen as a back that may be a solid NFL runner and pass-catcher.
Johnson had a solid rookie season in 2018, gaining 641 yards, but he played in only 10 games due to a knee injury. Another injury limited him to eight games in 2019 and he saw little playing time behind veteran Adrian Peterson and Swift in 2020, getting just 71 touches all season, 52 carries and 19 receptions.
Johnson, 23, ran for 1,225 yards on 283 carries and eight touchdowns in his three seasons with Detroit, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He had 61 receptions for 527 yards and three scores, averaging 8.6 yards a catch.
–Field Level Media