Davis: Smith Will Help With ‘Mirrored’ Defense

Marcus Smith II

Billy Davis wants a mirrored defense.

The Eagles’ defensive coordinator spoke Monday for the first time since the team used a first-round pick on outside linebacker Marcus Smith. Smith has been practicing at the Jack spot this spring – the position occupied last year by Connor Barwin. Davis provided insight on what the plan is for the Birds’ rookie.

“Marcus is a young guy that we had to start at a position to learn it,” he said. “The positions can be mirrored or they can take on little different variations depending on who’s out there – who’s out there at that time or even in a series. So it’s very flexible what I can do with the Jack and the Predator. But Marcus, we started at the Jack. There’s probably a little bit more versatility and movement. More of what he did in college was the Jack so we started him there. But I’m willing to bet once he settles down a little bit he can go either side.”

Trent Cole manned the Predator spot last year. As we explained previously, that position had more pass-rushing opportunities and was asked to drop less into coverage. The opposite was true for the Jack spot.

Davis likes that he now has options. Smith (once he gets up to speed) provides a more versatile option than Cole, who did an admirable job of switching from 4-3 DE to 3-4 OLB last season.

“We can do more position-swapping,” Davis explained. “Last year the goal was to get everybody on the same page, and some of that is putting him in one role and one spot and get that down first. And as we see that you completely understand it, now we can start moving you a little bit when you understand the concepts of the defense. So I think in Year 2, a lot of players, not just in the outside linebacker role, but I think there are a lot of areas where we can switch.”

The Eagles are advocates of evidence-based drafting. When they project prospects to their scheme, they lean heavily towards guys who have already shown they’ll fit. That’s one of the reasons they were drawn to Smith in the first place.

Last year, when Cole came off the field, Brandon Graham spelled him and Barwin stayed at his usual spot.

This year, Barwin could slide over and replace Cole, while Smith could come in and play the Jack role.

“Marcus has shown [he could] do it in college,” Davis said. “That’s one of the biggest things that attracted us to Marcus. The defense he ran at Louisville is very, very similar… Charlie Strong ran very similar to what we asked him to do here. So that was why it made such a nice fit for us.”

Davis has flexibility with the outside linebacker spots. If one guy is better in coverage, they can have him drop more. If another guy’s strength is rushing the passer, he can focus on getting to the quarterback more often.

But ultimately, the more versatile the two players can be, the better. That allows Davis to disguise where the pass-rush is coming from.

“Always mirrored,” he said, when asked what his preference is. “Ideally, everything’s mirrored. Corners are mirrored. Safeties are mirrored. Outside ‘backers are mirrored. Ends. In a pure 3-4, the more mirrors you get, the harder it is for them to decide on the offensive side what roles are.”

As for Smith, his exact role as a rookie is to be determined. During the spring, he has been practicing mostly with the third team. But in 2013, Lane Johnson wasn’t a starter in the spring either. He moved into that role eventually and started all 16 games.

The guess here is that Barwin and Cole will go into the season as the starters. But Smith will be counted on to contribute in a rotational role.

“He’s a rookie like the rest of ‘em, and heads are swimming right now because we’ve got the whole defense in,” Davis said. “We had to pick a position to start at. Our outside ‘backers can be mirrored or we can change their roles so to speak. And Predator and Jack, we can move that as the players change or as the players have different skill sets.

“The goal right now for the young guys is to learn the system and what’s expected. And it’s early on in the process. And we threw the whole defense at ‘em so right now they’re a little confused and it’s not quite where it’ll be in training camp when the lights kind of start going on and they say, ‘OK, I know what I’m supposed to do. Now I can play fast.”

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  • Maggie

    Coordinators are also men after Chip’s own heart. Also speak some, say nothing. Also ;~}.

    • TripSquadMonopoly

      I’m sure there’s a kitchen you could occupy around here somewhere…

      • Brandon Boykin, LOL

        So cool with your sexist post. Take your sexism elsewhere. There’s no place for it in this community.

      • PaoliBulldog

        There’s a toilet you could fit in, also.

      • John E. Zang

        I’m sure there’s a house you can be building somewhere.

        • Johnny Domino

          With a bridge to hide under

    • tommy_the_k

      Keep bringin’ it, Maggie. Good work.

  • Maggie

    Eagles coordinators and coaches. Maybe even players.

  • Uncle Wonder

    Whoo…Duce packed on a few lbs…thought that was Hollis Thomas for a second lol.

    • Johnny Domino

      Duce and a half

      • paul from nc

        It looks like he is wearing a flak jacket. His top half doesn’t look like it goes with the bottom.

        • Gener

          He should consider becoming Induced Staley

        • JofreyRice

          I can see a nipple on his breast, that’s no flak jacket. Duce needs a diet.

      • A_T_G


      • Joe from Easton

        roller pig?

    • paul from nc

      Still has that slim waist, even if it’s a foot lower

    • TNA

      So this is what happens to people who have unbelievable core strength…I remember when Reid used to emphasize core strength as the end all, be all and he always used Staley as an example of a guy with tremendous core strength.
      That said, after watching him show one of the rooks how to approach a hole, it’s clear, he still has great feet.

      • tommy_the_k

        You should see Duce approach a box of donut holes. Sorry Duce, you are the best.

    • Quad Staley

    • John E. Zang

      Yeah I don’t think underarmor suits him that well.

  • Cliff Ainley

    Yeah, he will help keep Cole fresh for the stretch run.

  • Glenn

    I bet if Billy Davis was made available at the press conference after the first day of the draft, there would have been a greater understanding and acceptance of why Marcus Smith was picked with the first round pick. If that matters…..

    • shady25

      Yes, that matters big time. I was under that impression since I saw his college tape and then read his scouting reports. And it makes perfect sense. People were calling him a reach because he wasn’t a big time name. But he fits perfectly. Man I can’t wait til he gets caught up with the defense. Unless Cole has drastically improved in his dropping, he is getting kicked inside in nickel and dime packages with Smith taking his role. Man this defense is going to get back to the Jim Johnson days and that is exactly what Billy Davis is trying to do. Screw with the offense, the illusion of the blitz. I can remember Eli and Romo getting confused and calling time outs numerous times because they didn’t know where the pressure was coming from.

      • John E. Zang

        You just brought back fond memories of JJ’s incredible defense. Most exciting defense I’ve ever seen with Bdawk as the secret weapon. I loved how aggressive and creative with blitzing it was. Virtually everyone on D was a trained attacker. Andy Reid should be visiting his grave to give thanks daily.

        • shady25

          Yeah man. I hope we get that back in the coming years. The more these guys play together, the more creative Billy Davis can get. If not this year, we will definitely be feared (like Cary Williams wants) next year.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I’ve been enamored with Marcus for some time (way before he was drafted) & can’t wait to see him prove some doubters wrong once he gets himself settled.

    On a defensive note, it doesn’t seem like our CBs get much respect from the scouting community of opposing teams. Speaking of CBs, if Davis wants to mirror his CBs does that mean Carroll may be the incumbent to replace Williams at some point opposite Fletcher? He’s billed as a Fletcher clone… Or are we looking at a starting CB unit of Boykin & Watkins? Two very athletic, speedy guys that can close quickly and play the ball to force PBUs/INTs?…

  • KathleenKennettiel

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    believe that my sister was like trully erning money part time on there
    computar. . there friends cousin had bean doing this for only thirteen months
    and resantly repayed the dept on their home and bought themselves a Infiniti .
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  • “In a pure 3-4, the more mirrors you get, the harder it is for them to decide on the offensive side what roles are.”

    I love this quote, and this defensive philosophy. The only way you beat great QBs and coordinators is through confusion. Never let them get comfortable and design roles for your players. The more mental checks an offense has to go through, the slower their reaction time is in-game; basically, the opposite of Chip’s offensive philosophy (let reaction and memory dictate movement, not thought)

  • Jason

    They always talk about how it takes the rookies so long to catch up. But I think the exact same is true with most veterans when they are learning a new scheme. Hopefully this will be the first time since JJ, that they have the same D-Coordinator for two complete seasons. More then anything, I think that will be the biggest improvement.