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Eagles rookie DeVonta Smith had more than records on his mind

PHILADELPHIA - Three catches. Forty-one yards. 

The Eagles game plan for the regular-season finale against Dallas had a few bullet points. There were individual checklist items that normally wouldn't be on coach Nick Sirianni's radar.  

Jason Kelce extended his personal starting streak at center to 122 games. After one play, the Eagles' best player earned the rest of the game off. 

Jordan Mailata started his 15th game and 13th in a row before his night was ended early, too.  

“As far as Jason Kelce, we wanted to make sure that he got his continuous streak,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I know that that means a lot. These records, some of the record stuff means a lot to me. It means a lot to the guys. I want to make sure that you can reward them and not put them at risk.” 

“When I talked to DeVonta (Smith) earlier in the week, I talked to him about this. I asked him how important that record is for him and he said: I want to do what's best for the team. But you know, I know that he would, at some point, he would have wanted that once that record. We were able to get it for him and without a lot of risk-taking.” 

Smith had those three catches and those 41 yards. Those numbers established a team rookie record with 916 yards and helped him surpass DeSean Jackson for third-place on the rookie receptions behind Keith Jackson and Jordan Matthews.  

“It kind of felt good just to get it out the way,” Smith said. “I wasn’t going to worry about it. Once it happened everybody came around and started congratulating me. That felt good.” 

The 10th overall pick in this year's NFL draft out of Alabama, Smith flashed all the qualities that made him the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner while establishing the new Eagles standard.  

On the first reception, Smith was in the right place when a Gardner Minshew pass intended for another Eagles receiver was overthrown and tipped by a Dallas defensive back. The 25-yard catch put Smith at exactly 900 yards, in easy range of Jackson's mark.   

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One series later, Smith climbed the ladder to make the most of another Minshew overthrow. Smith adjusted his route to make an exceptional leaping catch that pulled him exactly even with Jackson.  

“Yeah, I think we're like a yard short or something,” Minshew said. “So we were like, we just got to go do it again, you know.” 

The next play showcased Smith's precision, a simple 4-yard comeback that made the mark all his own.  

By the end of the first quarter, Smith had a record and the rest of the night off.  

"That was awesome,” Minshew said. “I’m really happy for him. He’s a great dude. He works really hard. He’s going to be a really special player. To help him get that, man, we were all really fired up for him.” 

Three catches that demonstrated, in order, Smith's knack for being in the right spot, his flair for the spectacular and his attention to detail. All qualities that mark him as one of the brightest spots in a mostly positive Eagles season.    

Even while accepting his due recognition, Smith showed another facet of his character. The high standard he sets for himself. 

“Honestly, this record wasn't one of my goals,” Smith said. “I really didn't know anything about it. I didn't get my goal,” Smith said. 

Smith was 84 yards shy of that particular goal – a nice round 1,000 yards. 

“It was my fault that I didn't get there,” Smith said. “I left a lot of stuff out there early in the season. So, I will just keep doing what I'm doing this year, finish this year out and get back to it.” 

With three quarters to play, Smith was within 100 yards of his goal. It had to be tempting to lobby for a few more snaps, a few more passes his way. 

Smith knew good and well that particular bullet point wasn’t in the game plan. 

“No, that wasn’t going to happen,” Smith said. 

Tom Rimback, sports reporter

Tom Rimback, sports reporter

Tom Rimback grew up reading the Burlington County Times and Courier Post sports sections and began writing for the BCT in 1996. He has covered everything from Super Bowls and Final Fours to Tri-County Swimming but he’s happiest on a sideline interviewing South Jersey scholastic athletes for the Burlington County Times, the Courier Post and The Daily Journal. Follow him on twitter @RimbackBCT. Email him with story ideas at and, most importantly, support local journalism with a subscription.

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