Eagles Wake-Up Call: ‘I Have Some Things To Prove’

NCAA Football: Louisville at Southern Mississippi

Marcus Smith is well aware of how some viewed the Eagles’ decision to take him with the No. 26 overall pick earlier this month.

Observers have questioned whether Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman reached by taking the Louisville outside linebacker in the first round. In fact, Smith said himself after the draft that he was expecting more to be a second-round pick.

But now he’s in the building and the job is to go to work. Fair or not, first-round picks are evaluated more closely than other rookies.

“I do feel like I have some things to prove,” Smith said. “I know a lot of fans want to figure out why the Eagles picked me, but I feel like I can become a great player and I feel like I can become the player that Coach Kelly would want me to be out here. Trying to work hard every day, trying to learn from guys like Connor [Barwin] and Trent Cole. I just want to come under their wing and just learn everything I can from them so I can be the great player I want to be.”

Does it bother you to hear what some are saying?

“No, it doesn’t bother me,” Smith said. “It just puts a chip on my shoulder and it just makes me want to just prove [to] people even more why they picked me with the 26th pick.”

If there was any concern about how Smith would embrace the veterans at his position, those can be put to rest. He seems to be entering the league with the correct mindset, as someone who has yet to accomplish a thing.

Trent Cole and Connor Barwin were the team’s outside linebackers last season as the Eagles transitioned to a 3-4. Barwin is a lock to start once again. Smith will likely begin the season as part of a rotation, although he has a chance to unseat Cole at some point.

“You have to approach it as you want to play right away,” he said. “You want to get on the field and be able to help the team contribute. That’s the competitive mindset that you have to have. But you also know that the guys who have already been there, they know what’s going on. I don’t know too much what’s going on right now, so you just try to get up under their wing and just take everything you can from them because they know everything. They’ve been playing in the NFL for awhile and this is just my first year.”

Asked what Cole told him, Smith added: “Trent Cole just told me that my head’s gonna be on fire right now. Everything’s just gonna be coming at you. He was like, ‘You’re gonna make mistakes. Just try to learn from ‘em and keep moving forward. Don’t ever get down on yourself. And just move on to the next play.’ ”

The best part about Smith’s game is his versatility. That should allow him to carve out a role quickly.

Smith said he heard the Cardinals might have taken him with the 27th pick if the Eagles had passed. There was also a report that the Redskins were interested at No. 34. The “reach” label will stick if he doesn’t produce. But if Smith fulfills his potential, no one will care that he got taken earlier than some analysts projected.

He participated in the team’s three-day rookie camp over the weekend and said he’s been spending full days (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at the NovaCare Complex.

“It’s been a great experience – exactly what I wanted to happen in my life, what I dreamed of,” Smith said of the last couple weeks. “Just going back to last week and graduating, got drafted and now I’m here with the Philadelphia Eagles. Couldn’t be more excited.”

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Louis Riddick of ESPN.com liked the Taylor Hart pick for the Eagles:

Program and scheme familiarity are two of the most important variables when it comes to projecting future player performance, and Hart has both working in his favor in Philadelphia. Having played for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon in a 3-4 scheme very similar to the one that is currently being run in Philadelphia, he will immediately be able to hit the ground running both in terms of what is to be expected from a training and preparation standpoint, as well as from a schematic and technical one. Look for Hart to continue to make strides in terms of his muscular/physical development, as he already has shown the competitive character and fundamental understanding of how to play the DE position in the 3-4 at a high-enough level to suggest a bright future in Philadelphia.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com think Josh Huff has a chance to make an instant impact:

After spending four years at Oregon, Huff should already be familiar with the system of Eagles coach (and former Ducks head man) Chip Kelly — and that will be a huge advantage, especially for a receiver. Notably, Huff played immediately upon arriving at Oregon rather than redshirting, even making two starts as a true freshman. When a player doesn’t get redshirted in his first year, especially at a strong program, it’s an indicator of significant talent. Huff grabbed my personal attention last November in a rivalry game against Oregon State, which I was watching to get a look at Beavers receiver (and future Saints draft pick) Brandin Cooks. Huff was unbelievable in that game, hauling in nine catches for 186 yards and three scores.

COMING UP

More on the Eagles’ rookies.

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