Eagles Wake-Up Call: OLB Training Camp Preview

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We started with the defensive line and quarterbacks. Now it’s on to the outside linebackers.

The pressing question: How much will Marcus Smith contribute as a rookie?

This is one of the bigger overall summer questions for the Eagles. Moving from college to the NFL, rookies' heads are often spinning during spring practices. They're in a new place with new teammates, new coaches and a new playbook.

That's why Smith spent most of OTAs and minicamp getting reps with the third team behind Connor Barwin and Bryan Braman at the Jack spot. Once he returns to the practice field in a couple weeks, coaches will expect him to start showing progress. While the Eagles drafted Smith with an eye on the future, they expect him to contribute this season.

Barring a setback, look for Smith to move up quickly to the second team. He'll also start to learn the predator position. The smart bet is that Smith will begin the season as a rotational player behind Barwin and Trent Cole. But the coaches won't throw him out there unless he's ready.

Roster battles

It would be an upset if anyone other than Barwin and Cole were the starters in Week 1. Smith is obviously making the 53-man roster, and the team signed Braman specifically to provide a special teams boost.

If the Eagles keep a fifth outside linebacker, it'll come down to Brandon Graham or Travis Long. Graham played 26.8 percent of the team's defensive snaps a year ago. He can get after the quarterback, but the coaching staff has provided no indication that it believes Graham can be a valuable piece going forward. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, there's no guarantee that Graham makes the squad.

Long is an unknown, but the organization seems to think highly of him. With a strong summer, he could steal a spot.

One thing I think

You'll be feeling good about the Smith pick after his rookie season.

Smith is a prime example of the Eagles' evidence-based drafting approach. They want outside linebackers who can fill multiple roles, and Smith did that at Louisville. He's an excellent athlete and by all accounts a hard worker.

Smith might not start a game all season, but he'll play plenty of snaps, and there will be games when he looks like a real difference-maker.


Chip Kelly was ranked as the 18th-best head coach in the NFL by one writer. Intern Josh's roundup of  what they're saying.

Our second training camp preview piece focused on Nick Foles and the quarterbacks.


Buzz Bissinger wrote Philly Mag's July cover story on his search to find out who Foles is:

Particularly since Foles is the New Face of Philadelphia Sports in a sports-mad town, the newest promise to the Promised Land in the post-Donovan McNabb era. Is he capable of leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl one day? Was the 2013 season aberrant? How will he handle the pressure? Fans need to try to figure out what ticks inside him to remotely know any of the answers.

Instead, what has emerged is a one-dimensional choirboy caricature reflective of a player and a team and a league terrified of individuality. Foles is selling himself, and being sold by the born-again Eagles, as the anti-DeSean: contrite, non-charismatic, cautious, churchgoing, Caucasian. The perfect poster boy for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and commissioner Roger Goodell’s vision of a new NFL theme park where players have no discernible personality and the Twitter account is laced with Glories to God.

Andrew Kulp of The 700 Level takes a look at whether the running back situation is better or worse than last year:

A second-consecutive rushing title probably isn’t in the cards for McCoy, but he’ll continue to be one of the most dangerous backs in the league. It’s Sproles adding a completely different element to the Birds’ offense that makes this group so much better, though. Last season, the burden fell entirely on Shady's shoulder. In 2014, he’s going to have a lot more help.


I'll pinch-hit for T-Mac on the weekly mailbag. Send those questions my way.

Josh Paunil contributed to this article.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Brian Zee

    The Bissenger article on Foles was trash. More proof that Birds 24/7 is the only worthwhile part of phillymag.

    • Dominik

      Is this the story published in the magazine? The snippet was pretty interesting, but the rest of article sucks pretty much.

      I asked Nick Foles for an interview for this story. My request was
      rejected. According to his agent, Justin Schulman, Foles doesn’t want to
      do anything at this point that highlights his success and not the team

      So the interview was rejected, for good reasons, and therefore he bashed his personality? I’m not sure if The Onion would have come up with this kind of storytelling.

      • Wiztopher

        Ahh now I get it. This writer’s ass hurts so he pulled a childish move n bashed Foles.

      • anon

        Yeah sounds like a bruised ego to me but the writer probably got a heft advance he didn’t want to give back. I guess Phillymag doesn’t care about getting a Foles interview in the future, or how the article might affect players/coaches on the team and their willingness to give articles too.

    • DetmerWonAHeisman

      Agree totally. The Eagles are trying to “sell us” Foles is Caucasian ? Gee, That never would have dawned on me that Foles is a white guy….and Lurie and Goodell’s “perfect poster boy” is Caucasian? Love the not-so-subtle implied racism. This is why I would never read a phillymag article outside of B24/7….

      • Wiztopher

        Exactly. Why’d he have to inject politics into this? Weren’t the past two outta three starting QBs here Black? Bissinger must not be that much of a football fan bc color doesn’t matter when it comes to Xs and Os

        • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

          Not to mention 4 over the past 25yrs. Vick, McNabb, Peete, Cunningham. A little ridiculous.

          • anon

            Before reading the article I was going to argue about the city being over black quarterbacks and the arguments about “mobile” vs “pocket” passers being veiled comments about race, etc.

            While I think all that is true the article is terrible — maybe the writer was pissed he didn’t get an interview, but I’m surprised the editors at Phillymag even posted it, poor journalism.

            Maybe Foles is white as wonderbread, and straight edge and has no bravado, nothing that makes for an interesting article. But maybe that’s what’s good about him. Smart, hardworking, professional. I love guys like Djax, TO, hopefully Huff is the same, but I don’t need that from my QB.

          • Wiztopher

            I dunno, if I want drama I look to regular TV. On field drama n SB runs hardly ever go hand and hand so if having a clean cut QB/football team gets us closer to a SB win, I’ll take it.

          • anon

            SEA / BAL all have those type of sh*t talking dudes.

          • Wiztopher

            Always exceptions, but I like Chip’s approach: no nonsense, just football.

          • dnabrice

            But on Defense. Not their QBs…

          • JofreyRice

            I think everyone knows where I stand on the Desean thing, but I think it’s inappropriate to conflate his “character” situation in regards to the organization with Foles’, or to come to the conclusion that Foles is somehow being embraced because he’s what people think of as “Whitebread”, or as a “Honky” or whatever.

            I mean, ultimately, if that’s who Foles is, who the hell is Bissinger to judge? I haven’t seen anything the Eagles have done to embrace Foles or his “whiteness” in an extraordinary way. He’s the starting QB, and the videos and propaganda at PE.Com reflects that. It’s not like Foles is some manufactured idea of a smalltown QB from a priveleged Christian upbringing. It seems like that’s just who the guy actually *is*. Why criticize him for it?

          • RIP illa

            It’s not like Foles is some manufactured idea of a smalltown QB from a priveleged Christian upbringing.

            Isn’t that why we drafted Barkley!!!

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Didn’t Jeff Blake play for us a bit?

          • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

            Yeah, but never started a game.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Cool. Wasn’t sure and didn’t bother looking it up.

    • GreenBleedin

      A total hit piece by a “journalist” acting like a petulant child. I subscribed to Philadelphia magazine to support Sheil and McManus and I guess I will need to hold my nose I read it.

      • dnabrice

        Read their articles online. Skip the rest.

    • TNA

      Here’s the bottom line of Bissinger’s story, from my perspective:
      Nick Foles is a nerd, a football nerd at that, and I’m (Bissinger) going to trash him for not behaving, acting or thinking what I think a Texas-bred football player should be like. I mean, I’m as big a deal about Texas football as it gets! Have you heard of Friday Night Lights? Yeah, that was me. Texas football is what it is because of me and Foles should be begging me to write about him and it’s unconscionable for someone as big deal as I am to be begging him for anything, much less an interview anywhere and anytime. And yes, he’s chickenshit for not taking my interview. Yeah, Foles is a disgrace to Texas football and the hard-nosed players depicted in my book, movie and tv show Friday Night Lights (did I mention that already?). He’s a living, walking, real-life version of Matt Saracen — except with a totally different background; neither can play in big games – because there is a HUGE catalog of big games Foles has played in and it’s so easy to make a judgement on someone’s character and life based on all of the insight I have as the voice of Texas football. Shoot, being the “voice” understates who I am. I AM Texas football.

      This reminds of that “article-profile” Esquire ran on Megan Fox a while back.

      • GreenBleedin

        Nice work. You assessed him perfectly

    • myeaglescantwin


      No guess work. No opinions. No speculation.
      what is and what aint.

    • tommy_the_k

      Bissinger should have read the exclusive interview Foles gave to The New York Times last week

  • Philly0312

    I think the veiled statement that Lurie is racist is completely inappropriate and extremely poor journalism.

    • PhillySean

      Yep. Clickbait BS.

    • LookLikeTarzanPlayLikeTarzanAl

      I don’t think it paints him as a racist, as much as an image/perception conscious, capitalist swine. Potato v. potatoe

  • Dominik

    The strange thing is: if he doesn’t comment, just tells a story, the article is really interesting. But there are always those stupid comments about Nick. Not that he’s criticizing, it’s how he criticizes. Just awful journalism at this point.

    It almost looks like there are two authors. The one is telling a great story, while the other is just spitting some bs into the story to insult the guy. Ridiculous.

    • Ron Swanson

      So true. It makes for a very strange read. It’s good research and interesting stories interspersed with some asinine spin. It feels like watching a youtube video about a nice polite guy while intermittently reading the comments.

  • JosephR2225

    After reading that Bissinger article, I am reminded of the words of that great 20th century philosopher and poet, the carraige driver from Ghostbusters:

    “What an a**hole.”

    • Cheesesteak

      Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

  • http://eaglemaniacal.com EAGLE MANIACAL

    Here we go again! The main article is about LINEBACKERS! But, of course you have:


    • Dominik

      When you do anything short of praising Nick Foles,
      there is this lunatic fringe out there that starts screaming, crying,
      and throwing themselves on the floor. You can’t talk reason to them, or
      cite history, or even point to stats. It’s like talking to retarded
      children on a sugar high.

      Ever heard of a straw man? Well, take this as example.

      Of course there are idiots who don’t tolerate criticism, but if you point out to the biggest idiots, it’s maybe funny but not good journalism or even good writing.

      If you want prove that you don’t have to praise Foles if you want to be a respected (Eagles) blogger, as long as your argument is valid, just go and read some articles Sheil, Tommy Lawlor or Jimmy K are writing. You even wrote it yourself:

      The overwhelming majority of my readers simply ‘Liked’ the article, or left a small comment about whether or not they agreed with me. Some did, some didn’t. However, there was a small (but overly vocal), contingent of crybabies who acted like I said Nick Foles was a scrub, when in fact I actually complemented his play.

      So what is all that fuss about?

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        Can we not dignifiy the spammer with responses? He comes in to this blog trying to drum up clicks for his own blog. I’m confused as to why he hasn’t been banned.

        • Dominik

          You’re probably right.

        • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

          ^ THIS

    • mksp

      Please stop spamming this page with your poorly written articles. Thank you.

  • aub32

    I don’t see why McCoy wouldn’t be the favorite to win the 2014 rushing title. He’s still going to be one the top backs when it comes to number of carries. The O line should be as good or better (depending on the LJ suspension. Sproles isn’t going to take carries away from Shady. Sproles will get his touches, but they will most likely come from what the team needs to make up for with the loss of DJax. I wonder who Kulp thinks is the favorite. Many teams are pass first teams. Lynch has competition in SEA. There are a multitude of backs in SF that are better backups than what the Eagles have. Bridgewater will have to show so ability on the pro level before AD stops seeing 8 & 9 in the box. So that only leaves Charles who’s coached by AR.

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      Good points. But I’m sure he figures AD will reclaim the title. It’s not like he was seeing 6-man boxes when he went for 2k.

      Other than him, I’m pointing at Forte as the next biggest threat to McCoy, but it really looks like a 2-horse race right now.

  • Tikkit, draft crapshoot

    Wow. Bissinger paints Foles as a soulless, bible thumping automaton. Congratulations Buzz, you’re a dbag.

  • borntosuffer

    Race baiting hacks need jobs too. Fortunately, journalism offers such opportunities or guys like Buzz would be on the dole.

  • myeaglescantwin

    As far as smith goes,

    I am believer that ;; if you want a player you go get that guy.
    Hell, the cardinals went and selected a Safety that was rated lower than Smith 1 pic behind us.

    What i see is a top of the line prototype OLB. These coaches will get his feet better, they will work on his coverage skills & they will put him into the best positions for him to succeed.
    Smith is about 255 and ripped up with 34″ arms. I could see this cat coming in at 270 next year and just being a beast.
    Chip and Howie have given me no reason to second guess them so far. I was on board with the DeSean decision, I was on board with the draft. Make some power moves and make this team a machine.

    see yall at Franklin Field.

  • Rambler

    I am mainly just bothered by Bissinger’s article because he fails to mention that Foles now worships at the Church of Pope Jordan. But seriously, way to take some great qualities of our QB and paint a misleading picture of some hidden agenda.

  • Johnny Domino

    Off topic but wondering: been in the queue for Franklin Field tix forever this morning, anyone else having the same problem?

    ETA Took over an hour but got lower bowl.

  • knighn

    Did you guys read the actually read complete Buzz Bissinger article? Or just the controversial snippet that Sheil posted above? In case you don’t know who Buzz is, he’s the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of the book Friday Night Lights (you may have heard of the Movie and TV Series that it inspired).
    In the end, it looks like Buzz wants Foles to show a little more Swagger – “Strut” he calls it in the article. (Swag is how we often abbreviate it here, much to the Maggie’s consternation). However, there’s a lot of good elements to the article. A lot of details on Foles and his background. For example, he follows up the snippet above with this:

    “I don’t believe this is all there is to Nick Foles. I definitely don’t believe it after spending extensive time in Austin talking to teammates and coaches and parents in the roots of Texas and high-school football that so define him. I now realize how different he is from every other player in the NFL. He has been forced to overcome much adversity on the football field and none off of it, because he grew up in a cocoon virtually devoid of African-Americans and poverty and hardship. He shares an economic background similar to that of fellow Texas product Johnny Manziel, only with a much richer family and without any of Manziel’s presence. And in a key defining moment in his life, perhaps the key moment, he was bearing witness to something that no one should ever have to see.”

    In the end, the author falls into stereo-typing, both with race, and with old-school ideas of “Macho”. Along the way, he gives some great insight into Nick Foles, and how the people closest to him view him. The full article is worth a read.

    • Claire

      I did actually read the full article, and felt like it had a pretty strong, pre-ordained agenda behind it. The cover of the magazine subtitled it as “How a shy kid from Texas became the new face of Philly sports, ” but it was far more about tearing Foles apart than getting to know him. I don’t feel like there was great insight into Foles in the least–just grandstanding about what he seems to be and seems not to be, neither of which we really know right now.

      • John E. Zang

        You’re exactly right. Although the article wasn’t horrible it did seem like he was writing pissed because Foles declined to interview and gave him nothing juicy to go off of. I didn’t like how he painted him as some softy without leadership qualities. There are different types of leaders and he’s not the “rah-rah” type. If he’s a genuine dude and successful, people will follow him.

        • Claire

          You make an excellent point about different types of leaders. He may not be one who is super vocal, at least to the press, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a leader. From what I gather, his teammates recognize his leadership, and I suppose that’s really what matters most.

    • JofreyRice

      he’s a very talented writer, but not all of his work is shining, and his judgment can be very questionable. I don’t really care that much about the article, honestly. I never really cared too much about what Foles is like, as a guy.

      • knighn

        Many people do care what Foles is like. They want a guy they can root for. Not just another great performer who is a jerk off of the field. There have been enough of those guys in the NFL.

        As for the author: I accept, thoroughly, that even the best people can have flaws. Not saying that “Buzz” is either the best person or the best writer, but that there was good material to be found in this article. We got some insight about Foles’ family and we got some stories from Foles’ friends. We also got some of Buzz’s opinions / mindset. That says more about the author than his subject. I came away from the article with a greater appreciation for Foles and some distaste for Buzz.

    • 76mustang

      “because he grew up in a cocoon virtually devoid of African-Americans and poverty and hardship.”

      According to the latest (2010) Census, African-Americans comprise 12.6% of the US population, Hispanic/Latinos 16.4%. In Texas, African-Americans comprise 11.8% of the state’s population, Hispanic/Latinos 37.6%. The fact the author singles out African-Americans with poverty and hardship is both racist and stereotyping.

      • knighn

        It does seem like “Buzz” was trying make that point. It’s interesting, reading the article, that Bissinger seems to attribute racist motives to other people (Jeff Lurie, Roger Goodell) but doesn’t seem to think that about himself.

        Perhaps the point Bissinger was trying to make, poorly, was the one the author made later in the article:
        “This says nothing about his or anyone else’s racial attitudes. It does say that Foles grew up in a bubble of entitlement and shockingly narrow social experience.”

        It is a true fact: when you live much of your life without knowing people of: other races, other countries, other religions, other economic backgrounds, other religions or other sexual orientations – all you have to go on is other people’s perceptions (or misperceptions) and the opinions you have built up from a lifetime of limited social experience.

        It can lead to strange ideas like:
        “People are poor because they don’t want to work and just want to live off of the government.”
        “All Muslims are terrorists.”
        “All Jews are greedy”
        “All gays care about is gay sex and they’re all going to hell.”

        Growing up rich in a rich neighborhood Foles probably didn’t have to worry about getting mugged on the way to / home from school. He didn’t have to worry about his car windows getting smashed for the radio (or for some change) or his house being robbed. Now, we don’t know much about Foles or his parents. The article didn’t get enough detail on them. Did Foles or his parents volunteer for charities? Did they visit inner cities? Did they go on mission trips in other countries? If they had, perhaps Foles social experience wasn’t as limited as the location of his upbringing would suggest.

    • Max Lightfoot

      Sure – a certain amount of snarkiness is expected, especially in Phillymag. I don’t have any problems with it. If I wrote it I’d probably express the same thought. I like Foles, love his play but he is kind of a poster boy, Mr. Clean type fella.

    • RIP illa

      Not gonna get into a huge thing about the article, but man that was some straight BS and uncalled for attacks, by the author. It reads like a total hatchet job, with sparsely thrown in, meaningful, socio-economic references and, very few profound points, to give the article some weight and also in a very see-through/obvious attempt to cover up the fact that the author is trying to get at Foles, for simply turning down his request for the interview. I’m pretty sure if Foles said yes, the author would have been way more generous and unbiased. However, there are those cases, where an interview is agreed to, the author plays nice, and still comes out with a hatchet job. Either way, the author absolutely wrote this with disdain for Nick and the aim to tear him down.

      Don’t care how many Pulitzer’s this the author has won, or how accomplished he is…Wrong is F’n wrong!!! Foles didn’t deserve this crap at all and not too many, if any, are better for reading the article. Although the article is not entirely devoid of what you call “good elements”…all of them could have been made in a variety of different ways and without trying to attack Foles as a man and player. Hell, alot of them should have or would have been better served in an article(s) that had nothing to do with Nick, or the misleading, slanted, and erroneous title, “Who Is Nick Foles”. A better title would have been, “What’s One Pompous A-hole’s Opinion On Who He Thinks Nick Foles Is, Without Actually Knowing The Guy or Having A Meaningful Conversation With Him!”

      And I also doubt that anybody being quoted in this article and giving so called “meaningful” insight to who Nick is, is truly close to Foles.

      Not a Foles Lover :-)

      • knighn

        Personally I came away liking Foles more, knowing just a little more about him, and liking the author of “Friday Night Lights” a little less.

  • myeaglescantwin

    who they hell would give the July cover story to a man named Buzz.??

    “Buzz’s girlfriend, WOOOOF”

  • Neanderthal

    contrite, non-charismatic, cautious, churchgoing, . The perfect poster boy for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and commissioner Roger Goodell’s vision of a new NFL theme park where players have no discernible personality and the Twitter account is laced with Glories to God.

    It appears that Buzz writes this with disdain, as if this is a bad thing. He would rather have ” Look at me” egotistical, self centered narcissistic, atheists like himself I guess.

    • Dominik

      Hey, nothing against atheists. But you’re right. If Foles believes in God, it’s not my right to judge him, even if I disagree with him.

      And if his faith leads to him being a good teammate, great. As long as he’s a person, a good teammate, a good QB and doesn’t want to convert anyone, I’m fine with that.

  • GreenBleedin
  • Amar, CB who bought in

    Buzz Bissinger, are you saying religious athletes are somehow bad ?

    Glory to God >>> Glory to alcohol,guns, lost-all-my-earnings-to-child-support-and-strippers-now-filing-for-bankruptcy.

  • Rick H

    Bissinger is one unhappy disgruntled person. He needs help. Every article he writes has a vindictive theme to it. Wouldn’t want to live life in his skin!

  • mark baren

    we seem to forget that barwin was a tight end until his senior year in college and also played on the cin basketball team. he changed over to defense in his senior year due to the coaches suggestion and became a first team big east and all american that year. in the nfl combine for the position of defensive end he had the best times and highest heights by far of all the defensive ends at the combine. as a rookie he started opposite mario as a defensive end… the following year he injured his ankle and was out the season. the following year the texans had a new defensive coord. and brought in the 3/4 system and connor moved to olb… that year the texans moved from a bottom dweller relative to defense to the top defense in the nfl and their first playoff game.
    after connor left the texan defense was so so and the team won 2 games… maybe something or maybe not.
    but barwin is a physical freak.. fast/quick as many receivers and runners, big and can get up there.. {basketball} if needed.. they talk of smith’s 34″ arms.. believe connors are a bit more.

    • mark baren

      oh, almost forgot.. those that talk of sacks. believe connor had four in one game. he was also awarded top defensive player of the month that year.

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    It’s funny how theres not a lot of talk about Marcus Smith. I almost forget he was our first round pick.