The Eagles have done little to hide the fact that they’re big fans of Dolphins edge defender Dion Jordan.
Last year, Chip Kelly indicated that Jordan was high on the team’s board and would have been the pick had Miami not traded up to the No. 3 spot. And more recently, the Birds have been rumored to be looking to trade for Jordan in his second season.
Connor Barwin and Trent Cole manned the OLB spots in the Eagles' 3-4 last year. The defense could use more pass-rush from that pair, but overall, the transition to a new scheme was smoother than expected. Cole, however, will turn 32 next season, and the Eagles have little in the pipeline to eventually replace him.
That brings us to May's draft and a player who in some ways could be described as a poor man's Dion Jordan: Louisville's Marcus Smith. Smith is one of 30 prospects to make an official visit to Philadelphia, per FoxSports.com.
The 6-3, 251-pounder finished second in the nation last year with 14.5 sacks and tested well in several categories at the combine:
Kelly has on multiple occasions outlined the three things the Eagles want from the OLB position: a player who can set the edge against the run, rush the passer and drop back into coverage.
Louisville showed multiple looks defensively last year, but Smith was asked to do all three of those things and lined up in a variety of places.
On this play, Smith is standing up on the left side on a 4th-and-1 play against Miami:
He takes on the tight end, sets the edge and gets to the ball-carrier.
I mentioned earlier that the Cardinals lined Smith up in a variety of spots. Here, they use the "psycho" front with defenders standing up near the line of scrimmage. Smith is on the inside, but beats the guard with his quickness and gets to the quarterback.
On many of the sacks/pressures I saw, scheme played a large role. Louisville did a fantastic job of getting Smith unblocked or matched up against running backs. He used his quickness and took advantage. But NFL teams will have to project a bit about whether Smith can consistently beat tackles one-on-one at the professional level.
Here, he's got his hand in the ground at left defensive end against Houston, beats the left tackle and forces the QB to step up into a hit:
Smith even set up at defensive tackle on some snaps, but at 251 pounds, that's not happening in the NFL.
He was recruited to Louisville as a quarterback, so it's important to remember Smith is still relatively new to the position. But with his size, length (34-inch arms) and athleticism, he has a lot of tools to work with.
Smith can cover too. Here, he lines up across the slot, gets downfield and breaks up a pass:
Here's another example of Smith in coverage, this time in zone. He drops back, hugs up on the nearest receiver and forces the QB to scramble:
As you can see, there's plenty to like about Smith.
Studying Louisville OLB Marcus Smith. Execs LOVE him. Loose edge rusher with a burst to close... Strong hands to set edge vs run. Intriguing
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 11, 2014
According to NFL.com, Smith is expected to be a third- or fourth-round pick. Given what we know about the Eagles' defense and Smith's skill set, he's absolutely someone the team could target on Day 2 or 3 of the draft.