Former First-Round Pick Marcus Smith Steps Up vs Vikings
There’s one thing that stands out about the Eagles win over the Vikings.
It’s not the kickoff return by Josh Huff for a touchdown, the second in two weeks for the Eagles.
It’s not the utter ineptitude of Philadelphia’s offense, that mustered up just 239 yards of total offense.
What I’ll remember is the arrival of former first-round pick Marcus Smith.
"Marcus Smith played a great game," Eagles CSN Philly pre and post game analyst Barrett Brooks told me on The Sports Bash.
"He started things up by hitting the edge on the run plays, he pushed the tackle up-field and made the play on the running back, not allowing him to get outside of where there is nobody. He forced the play forced the play back inside where the teeth of the defense is/
As Brooks explained, when you do things that with good fundamentals, like setting the edge, it allows for everyone to play fast, with good execution, players are in the right place and the right time and all it comes down to is a good tackle, usually by more then one player.
For Smith, in Schwartz' scheme, all he has to concentrate on is moving forward, setting the edge and rushing the passer, not dropping into coverage.
"When you do that, you can play with that reckless abandon," Brooks continued. "Because you're doing your technique."
Smith, now in his third season, was a first-round pick back in 2014. However, he always seemed miscast a a 3-4 linebacker in Billy Davis defense under Chip Kelly. They even tired to use him some as a inside linebacker when injuries riddle the team during his rookie season. Now, back his natural 4-3 defensive end position, maybe the Eagles can salvage the pick.
In the win over Minnesota, Smith had two tackles. Two weeks ago in Detroit, Smith had a tackle for loss in the game. While the numbers don't jump off-the-page, few defensive ends fill up the stat sheet. Consider Brandon Graham, who many think had a tremendous game, had just three tackles. Its the defensive ends job to funnel the play back inside and allow the linebackers to make tackles. It's no coincidence that middle linebacker Jordan Hicks had a season high 11 stops in the game.
"I just think the guys just put it in their mind to play better than last week," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "Obviously, it starts up front. It starts with both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive lines, and our defensive line came off the ball today and kind of took it upon themselves to just attack the line of scrimmage and then play on their side.”
In the first half of the game, the Vikings offense had a punt, interception, fumble, punt, field goal, punt, and a fumble. So as frustrating as Philadelphia’s offense was on Sunday – and it was absolutely awful – the effort of their defense can’t be overlooked.
“It's huge. It is huge," Pederson said about the Eagles defense.
"Our defense -- you look at Minnesota, interception, a fumble on downs, they had a touchdown late in the game. Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them -- again, it does start up front, and the pressure on the quarterback. I'll tell you what, it was fun to watch our defense today. That's the defense that we expect every week going forward.”
So instead of discussing the issues that the offense has, and they have issues, I’m going to acknowledge what was a tremendous turn-around by the Eagles defense.