The Philadelphia Eagles traded down in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and selected Linebacker Marcus Smith.

It was a slightly surprising choice that has put Smith squarely in the spotlight early in his NFL career.

Smith recently moved up to the second string defense. He is currently behind Connor Barwin on the depth chart and looking to learn from the veterans as much as possible.

“I go to Connor Barwin and Trent Cole,” Smith said. “When it comes to pass rush stuff, I go to Trent Cole, when it comes to knowing the defense and what is going on, I go to Connor Barwin.”

Smith is clearly a rookie and doing more than just learning from Barwin. He carried his shoulder pads off the field for him following Wednesday’s practice. Smith is doing his best to be a sponge and absorb as much advice as possible from the veterans.

“There are a lot of linebackers in front of me that can play the position, so I can sit back and become a better player just be watching them,” Smith stated. “Once I get up there and get ready to rush, I can imitate what they do and try to be one of the best linebackers I can be.”

“I am just trying to teach him the defense,” Barwin said of Smith. “I am trying to teach him the tricks I know. I think he is doing fine in camp. His head is spinning a little bit, but it is a lot for a rookie in his first year.”

Barwin spent a ton of time on the field last season due to a lack of depth behind him. The Eagles defense faced 1150 snaps in 2013. Barwin was on the field for nearly all of them. He believes a talent like Smith will allow him to get some rest during games and be fresher later in the season.

“I want to be on the field every play,” Barwin said. “When you look at it, there is no reason I should be playing 98 percent of the snaps. That is too much. It is hard to think about it yourself from day-to-day or week-to-week, but I think when you look back at the season it had some wear on me during the last month of the season.”

Smith was recruited to Louisville as a quarterback, but switched to the defensive side of the ball and racked up 24 sacks in his career. He draws on the athleticism he possessed as a quarterback to be successful as a linebacker.

“I think my strong suit is the pass rush,” Smith stated. “I improved with the run game and dropping into coverage. That is starting to get better.”

“One area I have been impressed with for him is obviously he is athletic, but his natural ability to cover,” Barwin said of Smith. “He is very patient in his coverage and he doesn’t necessarily know where he is supposed to be yet. He knows a little bit, but not exactly the tells of where a receiver or running back might go. You can see his athleticism showing up in coverage.”

Smith feels comfortable in the NFL, but is trying to adjust to defending against the speed of Chip Kelly’s offense in practice.

“It’s still fast,” Smith chuckled. “It’s still super-fast. Chip (Kelly) goes 110 miles per hour so I am just trying to catch up to the speed of the game. The vets told me it is going to be a lot slower in the game when you are practicing like this every day.”

Smith’s first chance to see if it slows down against a different opponent will be next Friday. The Eagles will play their preseason opener at Chicago.

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