Smith Set for His Last Chance
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Marcus Smith has already been labeled by most who follow the Philadelphia Eagles and the stamp put on the former first-round pick is bust.
The University of Louisville product, though, is excited to be getting a new start with a different regime which hasn't been polluted by previous perceptions.
As we speed toward the opening of training camp Smith is currently penciled in as a defensive end in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme after two years of struggling as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. And if things were starting today the third-year player with be the fourth man in the rotation on the edges, behind projected starters Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry, as well as Brandon Graham.
Because Schwartz's scheme is built on aggression and keeping his starters as fresh as fresh as possible so they will be ready to chase the quarterback in the fourth quarter, that means Smith is in line to see anywhere from 10 to 20 repetitions on game day, a small sample size that could increase if he starts producing in those limited opportunities.
For his part Smith is excited about the change and moving to a simplified system that in theory will take advantage of his biggest strengths, rushing the passer.
"This is a defense where you are expected to get after it (on the pass rush)," Smith explained to 973espn.com during the Eagles offseason work. "It's definitely something I feel more comfortable with. There aren't as many responsibilities and you can play faster."
That's a nod to the one-gap, attacking scheme Schwartz prefers versus the two-gap, read-and-react system that Chip Kelly and Bill Davis wanted.
There are strengths and weaknesses too each belief but for a player like Smith, who has struggled from the jump with the transition from the college ranks to pro level there is little doubt that taking as much off his plate as possible and letting the athleticism take over is the prudent path to garnering some kind of production.
"I'm going to try to reserve judgment on any of those guys until the pads go on," Schwartz said during the spring. "But this is a scheme that greatly limits what (Smith is) asked to do. It's very easy in theory; difficult in execution. But in theory, it should allow him to play fast and attack spots. It'll give him a little less responsibility, but hopefully, it'll allow him to make a greater impact. He's very athletic, great size and he's done very well so far."
In his two seasons as a pro after being drafted No. 26 overall in 2014, Smith has played in only 21 out of a possible 32 games to this point and been on the field for a total of 196 defensive snaps, managing only eight tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.
This is likely his last chance to prove something in Philadelphia and Smith has been hard at work in his native Georgia working with former NFL defensive end Chuck Smith, a nine-year pro who piled up 58 1/2 sacks and was named All-Pro while with the Falcons in 1997, to try to learn the position during his time away from the NovaCare Complex.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen