Nick Sirianni wants DeVonta Smith returning punts when Eagles need a spark

NFL teams rarely use their best offensive playmakers as kick returners, thinking the injury risks aren’t worth the big-play rewards. But Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith got the first punt return of his NFL career on Sunday at Washington, and it may not be the last time.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said he put Smith in, rather than usual punt returner Britain Covey, because he thought it was a situation where the Eagles could use a big play. Smith returned the punt 12 yards.

“We wanted a little spark,” Sirianni said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It wasn’t a slight by any means on Britain. We just wanted to get the ball in DeVonta’s hands when they were backed up. He did a nice job of getting some yardage off of that.”

Smith had eight catches for 169 yards during the game, so he made a much bigger impact on offense than on special teams, but Sirianni thinks Smith can continue to make an impact as a returner.

“We’ll see how that goes, what that turns into,” Sirianni said. “As of right now, it’s a spot thing. But who knows? We’ll see how that goes, continue to see how the season goes.”

In his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Alabama in 2020, Smith returned 11 punts for 237 yards, an impressive 21.5-yard average. His first NFL punt return likely won’t be his last.