PHILADELPHIA — There are some intriguing young quarterback and wide receiver combinations in the NFL right now:
Asked recently who the best tandem is, Smith replied: “Me and Jalen.”
“I believe if you ask Waddle and Tua, or if you ask Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr, they’re going to say themselves,” Smith said earlier this week, shortly after arriving in South Philadelphia for rookie minicamp. “That’s what you’re supposed to say. You’re supposed to feel confident about that.
“I believe me and Jalen will continue the connection that we had [at Alabama]. That’s just the confidence in it. If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, then you’re in the wrong business.”
Hurts and Smith were teammates at Alabama during Smith’s freshman and sophomore years (2017-18), when he was earning his stripes while sharing the field with heavyweights such as Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons), Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos) and Henry Ruggs III (Las Vegas Raiders). Smith and Hurts connected for 12 receptions, 207 yards and two touchdowns during their time together in Tuscaloosa.
When Smith arrived at the NovaCare Complex on April 30, a day after being selected No. 10 overall by Philadelphia in the 2021 NFL draft, Hurts was there to greet him. The QB waited in the wings while Smith did the obligatory photo shoot before the duo headed down the street to take in a Sixers game.
It was a reunion several years in the making.
“We always talked about the possibility of us getting back together and being teammates again,” Smith said. “We spoke it into existence. It happened, so we’re excited.”
The addition of his old friend comes at a good time for Hurts, who is entering a critical Year 2 in the NFL. He is in line to be the starting quarterback in 2021, but all signs point to this being a tryout for the gig on a longer-term basis. The Eagles have as many as three first-round picks next April, resources they can use to either draft a QB or trade for a veteran such as Houston’s Deshaun Watson or Seattle’s Russell Wilson should Hurts not impress this season.
The presence of Smith should help Hurts as he looks to solidify his spot and improve on his rookie passing numbers (52% completion rate, 6 TDs, 4 INTs).
“What I saw in DeVonta was just a guy who can consistently win one-on-one,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “When you have a guy like that in your offense that can do that, it makes everybody else around him better. Quarterback can go one, two, three, four, five, hitch, throw … and get the ball out of his hands.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) April 30, 2021
“He has very good [yards after catch] ability, easy touches to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and into his hands, and he just showed that in a very competitive league, obviously.”
Smith dominated last season despite playing against SEC competition, leading the NCAA in receptions (117), receiving yards (1,856) and receiving touchdowns (23).
Much has changed since Smith and Hurts last played together, but some familiarity with one another is ideal as they take their show to the NFL.
“Just because we had the connection in college doesn’t mean it’s the same now,” Smith said. “We’ve both grown as players. We both have things that we’ve added to our game. So we have to build from there and get better now.”