Tag Archives: Marcus Smith

Eagles Defense Hopes to Take it to the Next Level in 2014

30 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The big noise at the opening of the Eagles 2014 training camp is how fast will Chip Kelly’s offense be in its second year?

How good will the offense be with the addition of running back Darren Sproles? Will Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper stretch opposing defenses in the way that DeSean Jackson did last season? Can Nick Foles duplicate his success from last season now that he is firmly established as the Birds starting quarterback?

For all the potential of the Birds high-powered offense, the improvement of the Eagles 3-4 defense is going to be the key to the team’s success in 2014. Considering how the New Orleans Saints rolled up over 400 yards of offense against the Eagles in their NFC Wildcard Playoff game last season, there is definitely room for improvement.

While the Eagles defense played well toward the end of the regular season, they finished the season 29th overall and 32nd against the pass. They were 10th against the run and finished tied for third in takeaways-giveaways margin. The Birds also had 37 sacks as a unit and ranked 20th in the league in that category.

In 10 out of their last 12 games, the Eagles held teams to under 100 yards rushing including the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, who gained just 56 yards on the ground.

“I “I think the biggest thing you saw a year ago, you saw more assignment football,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. “Guys were studying hard to know their assignment, what was asked of them, and they were trying real hard to get to their assignment and maybe not understanding their whole picture of how they exactly fit with their teammates and how it all came together.”

The one thing that the Eagles, both players and coaches, have been saying throughout organized team activities, minicamps and in the early days of training camp is that they all have a better grasp of the defense in their second year.

“It’s the second year around. …The first year we did a great job,” said inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. “In the second year, it’s chemistry, camaraderie, checks, plays. It’s all down and so we’re able to focus on the little things. This second year, we should be a whole lot better.”

It helped that the Birds added some players in the secondary. Former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll, who had three interceptions playing for the Miami Dolphins, and former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins will help to shore up an area the Eagles coaches felt was a weakness last season.

The only real position battle on the defense is at the other safety spot between veteran Nate Allen and second-year player Earl Wolfe.

Meanwhile, Davis said the Eagles 2014 No. 1 draft choice linebacker Marcus Smith is still a work in progress in terms of learning the defense. He said Smith, who 14.5 sacks as a senior at Louisville, does have some familiarity with the Eagles scheme because it was similar to what he played in at the collegiate level.

“Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic,” Davis said. “He’s picked it up fairly quickly and one of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and Charlie Strong’s defense was a lot like ours and the way they used him is lot like the way we use our ‘Jack’ position.”

In football lingo, the “Jack” position in a 3-4 defense refers to the outside linebacker serving as the primary pass rusher that can line up on either side of the ball.

For all the flash and dash of the offense, the Birds defense, at this point of the season, doesn’t have an identity in the way that Eagles defenses have had in the past whether you’re talking about the days of Reggie White or the hard-blitzing squads that played for the late Jim Johnson.

“The personality of this group will show itself when we play in the preseason and as we play games on Sunday,” Davis said. “Our goal defensively is to break the rhythm of the offense and to get them off the field as often as possible with turnovers and third downs.”

And so when it comes to the Eagles defense in 2014, fans want to know one thing. …who are these guys?

“Our team is going to come after you and create turnovers,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox. “We’re going to be a hard-nosed defense.”

 

Smith Not a Bad No. 1 Pick for the Eagles

9 May

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Eagles are hoping former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith can rush the quarterback on a consistent basis.

The Eagles are hoping former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith can rush the quarterback on a consistent basis.

PHILADELPHIA-With Eagles fans hoping that they would draft a wide receiver to replace DeSean Jackson, the Birds filled another much-needed position when they drafted outside linebacker Marcus Smith (6-foot-3, 251 pounds) out of Louisville in the first round.

After a trade with the Cleveland Browns that included an additional third-round pick, the Eagles traded out of the 22nd pick to get to the 26th pick when it became apparent that six of the players they were targeting were off the board by the time of their selection.

With Smith, the Eagles are getting a solid pass-rusher who was second in the nation in sacks with 12.5. He also had 16.5 tackles for loss during his senior at Louisville. He was named the American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Not bad for a guy who was originally recruited to play  quarterback for Louisville.

The pick of Smith may not be the sexiest first-round selection  for the Birds considering their other needs. On the surface picking Smith, a second-team All-American, had many fans scratching their heads on Draft night.

That said, the Eagles did need a good pass rusher in their 3-4 scheme. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly likes Smith’s potential for the Eagles defense.

“(Smith) is a big kid, he’s transitioned to the outside linebacker position,” Kelly said. “I think he has a huge upside. He’s a very, very good athlete. He’s over 6-3. He’s in the 250-255 pound range. He ran a 4.68 40. He’s got speed coming off the edge. We thought adding a pass rusher was a big thing for us.

“He’s a young to bring in behind Trent (Cole) and Connor (Barwin). Those guys can show him the ropes. His ceiling is very, very high.”

Like last year’s No. 1 draft pick Lane Johnson, who also started his collegiate career as a quarterback, Smith said it took him a year to make that transition to playing defense and he’s gotten better with each year.

“I think what I’ve learned over the years, I’ve gotten better each year and this year I had an outbreak,” Smith said. “I feel like I can carry everything that I did this year to the NFL. I want to make an impact right away and I know the coaches they have in Philly will train me up and get me ready for the season coming up.”

Considering how the Eagles defense can go back and forth from being a 3-4 to a 4-3 team, Kelly believes Smith’s experience at Louisville playing defensive end and linebacker will help him get acclimated to the Eagles system.

“There is film of him playing defensive end and film of him playing as a standup outside linebacker. It’s not a projection like you do sometimes,” Kelly said. “Hey, let’s take this defensive end who may be a little undersized to be an NFL defensive end, but he has the skill set to be an outside linebacker. He’s actually played the position.”

With his size and athleticism, Smith will be expected to drop back in coverage in the passing game as well as rush the passer. He said he has experience in pass coverage as a linebacker during his time at Louisville.

“It was 50-50. I believe they dropped me 50-50 last year. Maybe not as much my junior year, but last year, they dropped me back more,” Smith said. “Going into the middle of the season I started rushing a lot more because they wanted me more involved getting to the quarterback. They wanted somebody to get to the quarterback. I was doing both so I would say 50 percent.”

If he can bring the same kind of wood to opposing receivers that he brings to quarterbacks, he has the potential to be the enforcer in the middle of the defense that this team has lacked for several years.