NFL Wire News

Bust or learning curve? Eagles’ rookie unknown commodity


PHILADELPHIA — When the Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft in May, they didn’t expect him to step right in and start.

They already had two veteran outside ‘backers in Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Their hope was that Smith would contribute this season as a pass-rush specialist, and then replace the 32-year-old Cole next season when Cole is another year older and his salary cap number soars from $6.6 million to $11 million.

But Smith has essentially given them nothing this season. He has played 74 snaps the entire year and hasn’t even been good enough to earn regular time on special teams. Head coach Chip Kelly said Smith hasn’t been consistent enough in practice to earn playing time on Sundays.

In his defense, Smith has been shuffled around because of injuries to other linebackers. He started outside and then moved inside and now is back outside, but still also is backing up inside.

Still, Smith has not shown enough in practice either inside or outside to earn regular playing time. The Eagles will play their final game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants. It’s a meaningless game since both the 9-6 Eagles and 6-9 Giants have been eliminated from playoff consideration. Yet Smith still isn’t expected to play much, if at all.

“The difficulty of moving from outside to inside (linebacker) and then trying to retrain your eyes and then now back outside, there’s a reason for the inconsistency,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “Also, and some of it is us moving him from in and out and out and in. The other part of it is he just has to settle in and play the hand he’s deal and make the most of it.”

Even without any contribution from Smith, the Eagles have been very good at rushing the passer this season. They head into Sunday’s game ranked second in the league in sacks with 49.

The problem is, they could have used that first-round pick to address the cornerback position, which has been a real problem for the Eagles this season. And because he hasn’t been on the field much, Davis and Kelly don’t really know what they have in Smith or whether he is capable of replacing Cole.

“I know how people feel,” Smith said. “You have a first-rounder taken at 26th overall, you expect him to play right away. Well, when I came in, I had actual guys who have played the position and guys I can learn from, not essentially get thrown into the fire. I just feel it benefitted me because I didn’t have to play right away.”

SERIES HISTORY: 166th meeting. Giants lead the series, 85-78-2. The Eagles have won two of the last three meetings, including a 27-0 win over the Giants in Week 6. LeSean McCoy rushed for 149 yards in that game. The Eagles defense sacked Eli Manning six times and held the Giants to 12 first downs.

NOTES: LB Trent Cole will miss his second straight game after having surgery to repair a fractured hand. LB Brandon Graham will make his second straight start and just the 14th of his career. … PK Cody Parkey still is listed on the injury report with a groin issue. He missed two field-goal attempts last week, but said his groin is not bothering him. He will play this week against the Giants.

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