Marcus Smith Hoping Move to End can Kick-Start Career
Marcus Smith was a first round pick in 2014, the Eagles were hoping the 26th overall pick and 2014 American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year would turn into a pass rushing specialist.
Now entering his third season, Smith is still searching for a role on the team.
One thing that has him excited is playing in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 defense where he will be moving back to his college position of defensive end - but it will be a crowded competition with Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham all making the move to the end as well.
"He's a defensive end for us. That's his position," Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told reporters today at the Nova Care Center.
"You know, the thing that's good about him and guys like Connor [DE Connor Barwin] and [DE] Brandon Graham, having the background in a 3-4 the last couple years, it makes some of our zone dog, some of our sort of third-down stuff, where you're running some blitz stuff, using those guys in coverage makes it a little bit easier to use those guys. Those guys are used to doing it. But he's a defensive end for us. We like his skill set there."
After all, Smith played end at Louisville and his unusual combination of size and speed landed him a spot in the first round. After totaling 12.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles with the Cardinals, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year could save his career by playing a role in helping bolster the Eagles defense and, in particular, its ability to chase down opposing quarterbacks.
Before any of that can happen, though, Smith finds himself re-learning his not-so-new position and what it takes to play it in the NFL. He must also master the nuances of playing end in a 4-3 defense now after he was badly miscast in ex-DC Billy Davis' 3-4 front the past two seasons.
"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said about Smith moving to the 4-3 end position back in May. "Very easy in theory, difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, you know, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact. He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."
But Schwartz down played the difference between the two positions, saying the real judgement will take place once the pads are on.
"I think the biggest thing when you're talking about a young player is allowing him to grow at, I guess, at the right pace," explained Schwartz back in May about Smith. "I don't know if that's the best way to put it. But first of all, let's reserve judgment on any of those guys until the pads come on."
For Smith to get some regular playing time would be a win for the Eagles, but in order to do that he is going to have to beat out Barwin, Curry and Graham - no easy task. If he can't do that it could mean the end of the line for the former first-round pick.