Eagles Wake-Up Call: Checking In On Marcus Smith

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

At one point during 7-on-7s Wednesday, Marcus Smith found himself one-on-on with Jordan Matthews.

Smith stayed with the wideout well down field and was in decent position as the pass sailed to the corner of the end zone, but Matthews elevated and snagged the ball out of the air. Touchdown.

Or was it?

“We were talking about that after practice. He was out of bounds on that red zone catch,” said Smith. “I told him he wasn’t going to catch the ball. It’s fun. That’s my roommate, that’s my guy. We come out here and compete every day.”

Smith has been more in the mix of late. On Monday he was bumped up to the second team and ran with the twos again when practice resumed Wednesday at the NovaCare. As such, he gets to go against better competition more regularly. He had his moment with Matthews. Later in the session, he leaped up and batted down a Nick Foles pass that was headed for the flat.

You are starting to notice him a little more.

“I’ve seen a steady improvement from him,” said Chip Kelly. “I think he’s getting more comfortable, we’re excited about seeing where he progresses, but I think he’s handled it really well to be honest with you.”

Smith is still relatively new to the defensive side of the ball. He played quarterback through high school. His coaches at Louisville approached him about converting to the defensive side his freshman year. He became a full-time starter as a junior.

The jump to the pros has been dizzying. Adjusting to Kelly’s warp speed has been a challenge. But he seems to be hanging in there.

“The one area I’ve been impressed with for him is his natural ability to cover,” said Connor Barwin. “I think he is very patient in his coverage. He doesn’t necessarily know where he is supposed to be yet — he knows a little bit but not exactly like some of the tells of where a receiver or a running back might go — but you can see his athleticism showing up in coverage.”

The Eagles project the 22-year-old Smith as a player that can both operate in space and effectively rush the passer. (He finished second in the nation with 14 1/2 sacks as a senior.) If that proves true, it will move Billy Davis closer to his vision of a mirrored defense where roles can be switched between counterparts, thereby making the attack less predictable.

“I think when Trent [Cole] and I are on the field I think for the most part most teams can figure out what’s going on,” said Barwin. “But when me and Marcus get on the field I think it will be a little harder to figure out.”

The question is: when will Smith be ready? Many fans don’t know exactly what kind of expectations to have for a first-round pick that comes packed with athletic ability but lacks experience.

“I expect him to play. That should be the expectation,” said Barwin. “He’s going to play this year, he’s going to contribute. I don’t know how much or how little but I think he’ll be able to contribute right away.”


Earl Wolff ran with the starters, and more in yesterday’s camp notes.

“I think it’s time for [Jordan] Matthews to move up to the first team and square off against Brandon Boykin.” Sheil’s practice observations.

Coach Flinn joined Sheil for an All-22 breakdown of an important passing concept Chip Kelly uses.

We dug into three interesting Eagles statistics yesterday, courtesy of the Football Outsiders.


The Eagles’ window to win will close in two years, writes Vince Quinn of CBS Philly:

Examining the team as they’re currently built, the Eagles are concentrated on the run. How much so? They had the 4th most attempts in the league last season with 500. This makes plenty of sense when you consider that the Eagles have arguably the best offensive line in football and the reigning rushing champ in LeSean McCoy. However, like taking a picture at a family reunion where everyone has their eyes open, the timing is only perfect for so long.

McCoy just turned 26 this month and is undeniably in his prime as an NFL running back. Shady is the king. Now while I’m a huge supporter of Chip Kelly and his innovations for fitness and health, I have my concerns as to what roughly 350 touches a year will do to him long-term. I expect him to be a great back over the next two or three seasons, but then show some signs of wear at age 28 or 29.

Brandon Lee Gowton touched on Nick Foles‘ day in his training camp notes.

Nick Foles wasn’t exceptionally sharp on Tuesday. Along with the interception to Jenkins he also threw a pass behind a WR over the middle of the field that was dropped by Earl Wolff. One positive about Foles is that he looks less awkward this year on the QB keeper off of the read option.


Practice at NovaCare begins at 11:35. We’ll speak with Pat Shurmur beforehand.

Don’t forget to pre-order your Eagles Almanac.

PDF: $10

Paperback: $25


Josh Paunil contributed to this post.

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  • cheapmeat.mariota.crackwh0re

    Gowton, How can Napoleon Dynamite look less awkward? Gosh

    • Pete

      He lost me when he mentioned how awful Foles looked Tuesday. The team didn’t even practice Tuesday, right?

  • Bullwinkle

    I have confidence that Chip will adjust his offense as needed when Shady starts to show signs of wear. Also, I am confident that he is smart enough to plan ahead so that the Eagles always have an arsenal of offensive weapons.

  • jrs

    Hadn’t heard of Vince Quinn but he makes a strong case for dumbest Eagles article of the year (by a Philly writer).

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      I attempted to read it, but it really is that dumb.

    • myeaglescantwin

      why’s that?

      Historically, players coming off a 350 touch season decline the very next season, let alone after a projected 3 years of it.
      Look at our team. We are built to win now.

      In the next two years, the only two OL i expect to stick around are Lane and Kelce, so you’re going to need to replace 3 OL starters in the next 1-3 years. That’s a big issue for a run first team.

      other than that, we are young and talented.

      • jrs

        Just to be clear, I’m not taking issue with the fact that Shady may decline over the next couple of years but to say our window is reliant on any one player especially when that player doesn’t play qb just seems ridiculous to me.

        As many have pointed out already there is no reason why we can’t find another running back or rely more heavily on other weapons as some become less effective.

        I don’t think the window is open just bc 1/53 no matter how good that one is. With how Chip values having multiple players ready to play at all positions I think this is especially true for the Eagles. I also think it’s a little offensive (ha) to say the Eagles success depends so much on one guy. I hope all 53 of those guys thinks this is as dumb as I do.

        • myeaglescantwin

          absolutely right.

        • Jeff Asay

          I think you’re severely undervaluing what Shady can do on the field. That said, the real window closing is the offensive line. And that effects the entire offense, not just the run game. Guys like Peters don’t grow on trees and don’t graduate every year.

          When they talk window closing, I interpret that as closing on the current bedrock of the offense – the line. No one knows how the Eagles will retool 3/5 of a top NFL line, but one must assume there will be a drop-off. I expect high draft picks spent on offensive line next two years.

    • Kev_H

      Most rushing leaders in the post Emmitt Smith world have seen large drops in production the following year and very few have been able to sustain success beyond age 28. You can argue a dozen reasons why McCoy can be the exception, but it’s still the exception.

      • jrs

        No need to argue he’s the exception. I don’t think it matters one way or the other. The article said that this once this one player declines that the Eagles window is closed. This is untrue.

  • Reef215

    McCoy is great…my favorite player….but you can an all pro level RB in the 2nd round and even the 3rd round. In last years draft a RB wasn’t taken until the 54th pick.

    Now the O line thats a cause for concern, with the exception of Lane, we have an AGING O line that will need to replace up to 4 people in the next 2 seasons. THAT is a problem…not whether or not we will have a capable RB to do well in our system.

    • Dominik

      I think you forgot about Kelce and how young he is. He just signed a longterm extension, he won’t be going anywhere soon. 😉

      But the problem concerning the age of the O-Line is real, do doubt. Luckily, we should have our future LT on the roster in Lane. LT and Center are probably the most important positions on the line (the salaries for top guards and top Centers are pretty equally). We have to find a RG soon, a LG the year after that and a RT the year after that (without injuries).

      I’m thinking, maybe we should invest in FA next year and sign Iupati, if he doesn’t want too much money. Would be scary short term, with Mathis and him at LG and RG. Iuptati turned 27 this year, so he will have at least 4 good years left when we sign him next year. Draft a Mathis replacement in round 3-5, let him grow and the problems could be solved.

    • Token

      I think years of Westbrook and McCoy have tricked people into thinking its easy to find amazing RBs. Not the case.

      • Kev_H

        Have you followed the NFL? Just staying in the division you have a 6th rounder from Florida Atlantic, a third round pick from Oklahoma, and a free agent pick up/former 7th round pick out of Liberty. None of these guys will hold back their teams. Together last year they rushed for 3129 yds, 4.8 ypa, and 22 TDs.

        Running back rushing success is largely team dependent and there are easily more than 32 guys in America who can carry the load for an NFL team. Windows don’t open or shut based on the individual taking hand offs.

        • aub32

          Only one of those guys is really all that good. Murray is an injury waiting to happen. Brown really hasn’t done much. What about Wilson? He was supposed to be good. Felix Jones? Richardson. There’s a big difference from being a rotation guy who can have some success and being a bell cow star. Shady, Peterson, Charles and Forte are the only guys I’d put a in the top category. all the other guys are not really 3 down backs that can do it all while remaining healthy.

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

            I’d add Marshawn to that list, personally.

          • aub32

            I actually had him in this list but deleted him due to the holdout. Rumors are circulating that if he doesn’t get what he wants then he may retire.

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

            Wow, I haven’t heard that, yet. I don’t think he leaves 7.5mil on the table. I think that talk would just be scare tactic. And I don’t care what they say out in Seattle, Turbin and Michael can’t come close to replacing Lynch.

            EDIT: Lynch is ending the holdout. Put him in that list.

          • Kev_H

            Yeah. What’s the objective though? Ultimately to win games more directly to gain yards. Far more teams are doing that without a bell cow star than not since Emmitt Smith signed with the Cardinals. For a quick example, how many playoff games did your bell cow stars win last year?

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

            Lynch won a Super Bowl. 6 months ago.

        • Token

          Enjoy McCoy. These guys dont grow on trees. McCoy goes down and this team is a disaster. Last year and this year.

          Sure you may find RBs that can produce some, but not many that can win you games these in todays NFL.

          Theres probably like 5 stud RBs in the entire NFL. McCoy, Peterson, Lynch, Forte, Charles. All fairly high picks. At least half the league have turds back there.

          Im not for drafting RBs in the 1st. But the talented ones will be gone within the first 3 rounds. Usually the first 2 rounds.

          Judging by your last few sentences your idea of a good RB is just someone who can take the handoff. Doing things with it must not be of much importance. Let me take a wild guess….. You were a big Bryce Brown fan and still think Chris Polk is a solid RB?

          • Kev_H

            Don’t like Bryce Brown. You need somebody who can pass block, catch passes, and not fumble. If they can meet that criteria, you are good to go. If McCoy goes down, the Eagles would still be a top 3-5 rushing team.

          • Jeff Asay

            Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

    • FluxCapacitor

      RG and LG need attention, no doubt. But, I think Peters has 3 more years at an elite level…he is just a freak. Lane and Jason Kelce are very young, nothing to worry about there for the next 10 years. But, I’m with you on worrying about guard and depth.

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      I think you meant 3 people.

    • Guest

      Lane and Kelce*

  • myeaglescantwin

    Loving that the front 7 is the strength of our defense right now.

    We have defensive linemen over 6’2.
    we have (most) Linebackers that are over 6’1 230.
    It’s like a paradox of what we are accustomed to.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    window could be 2, could be 12, could be zero. less than 10 games ago (pre-Oakland), figured Eagles were staring 7-9 if Vick got back healthy, drafting QB somewhere in the low teens and warning everyone of Johnny 8ball coming to town. lot of teams win division titles, get in the conversation about being 4th or 5th best team in conference but never get the qb play to push them over top. agree alot of individual players have 2 or 3 yr window (peters, shady, mathis), but it is all about Foles.

    • anon

      Hard to make any conclusions about last year when we lost to every single playoff team (Bolts, KC, DEN, and Nola) we faced (with either vick or foles). 3 of those games were winnable, but we didn’t win them.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        my conclusion was, Kelly’s system works and howie can draft-that’s alot in 1 year. i’d of taken my exact scenario above and 10-6 w/ division title in ’15, so kelly is about 2 yrs ahead of schedule, to me. other than that, let’s see how first 4-6 games plays out. still think they need another year of FA/draft/develope players before before we can talk SB. Seattle didnt happen overnight, neither did SF, NO has been tweeking same staff and players for 6+ years.

      • OddBall

        Not exactly, as we beat GB who made the playoffs if memory serves me correctly. Not bragging about being 1-4 against PO teams but still better than nil-4.

        • JofreyRice

          I think it’s got to be noted that we beat Scott Tolzien, not Aaron Rodgers. I totally agree with anon here, they still have a lot to prove, in terms of wins against good teams.

          • OddBall

            I agree with that. It was not pleasant to be the team that NO ran on to win. Plus, CK’s O disappointed in some key games. The euphoria on this board is premature.

          • peteike

            I agree there will be some struggles this year but I also understand the optimism. They grew a ton as season progressed and Foles played well. Have to beat whos in front of you no matter what, thats what good teams do. Not sure how anyone can take the Vick games and a new coach/scheme in first quarter of his first season as an obvious growing pains time vs weighting it as more of a determining factor of a weakness against better competition. Im buying the former all day.

            Not many could beat Denver though, get that. Im sickened now listening to denver local radio and being reminded that they get Von Miller back and brought in Ward, Talib and Ware. Reminds me of old Dallas/SF in 90s just getting all the best players on already stacked teams. Just not right.

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

            We’ll see how good they are and how much they’ve improved from the SB since they have to play the NFCWest as well.

      • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

        To add to GMaddox’s point, while Arizona didn’t make the playoffs, they did have a better record than one of the division winners (GB) and had the same record as another (us). Certainly a playoff caliber team. Plus, three of those losses you cite were the first month of the season, all with Vick as your starter. With Foles we beat the two playoff caliber teams in the regular season, and Foles left the field with a lead against NO. Hard to make conclusions, sure, but also hard to say the future doesn’t look pretty bright.

        • JofreyRice

          so does that make beating Arizona Kelly’s biggest win?

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

            Thus far, maybe. The demolition of the Bears is a nice one. As was beating Dallas in Dallas for the division and playoff birth. I’d probably go with Dallas.

          • Clamdigger

            I’d say Arizona. They were well-coached. It was one of the best defenses they faced (KC/AZ/NO had the best fronts) and they had their starting QB playing.

            Dallas was more important because of what it represented, but the Cardinals were a much more complete team.

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

            Excellent points. Can’t dispute them. I go with Dallas because of the importance, but it’s definitely a great case for AZ. Whom we play again this year.

          • Clamdigger

            That’s fair. I just really liked how Chip attacked the weakness they had shown against TE’s in the passing game by getting Ertz involved down the field.

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

            I love everything about that game. I’m with you there, man.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            I’ll take the win over New York. The start of the Nick Foles era. :)

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

            “Hey Mike, you look like you’re struggling. Let me see if I can help….” Rest is history. (minus one blip, but that’s neither here nor there)

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

            I will forever assume the absolute dismantling of WAS in his first-ever game was his biggest win, until he wins the SB.

          • Clamdigger


          • Amar, CB who bought in

            Yes, that team was cooking on gas when they came to the Linc. I personally saw them beat the Falconians at the Univ of Phoenix stadium.

      • tomw

        Green Bay?

      • peteike

        problem with the strength of schedule angle (what youre saying is fact, I get that) is that it automatically assumes the Eagles will lose to better competition. Or had some of those teams with injuries not had them, they would have automatically lost. Its an impossible guessing game. Vick starting 3 of those kind of matters also no matter how we want to slice it and the brand new coach scheme in first quarter of season. All legit variables.

      • MagatBrackendale

        The article is saying that the offense has only 2 years. Patently stupid writing. Your comment seemingly ignores the fact that the defense ‘helped” lose those games. With apparent improvement on both sides of the line, those winnable games just might become victories.

    • Travis Papa

      Has anyone else noticed how much of an anti-Kelly player/pick manziel would have been in hindsight. It makes that pre draft interest laughable. He might have been the 1st 1st rd pick ever cut before TC

    • JofreyRice

      right, they picked in the top 5 LAST YEAR. Now they’ve got 2 years to win or bust? I get what the guy’s saying, and the point about the line & Shady has merit, but I think couching it in terms of chances to win a Super Bowl is premature. I mean, Kelly’s vision for the Eagles is just coming into focus.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        see some merit, know we’ve discussed it before, the eagles are going draft and develope, spackle in w/ FA, so, if they arent planning for obvious attrition in Peters and Mathis (TOddH is Barbre), then the whole strategy is shot in the rump before we even get out of the gate (doing it w/ WR, CBs, S, LB already).

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    I think everyone is waiting for the Mathews vs Boykin showdown.

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      yup, tell us a lot about both. one thing i’ve heard over and over is Matthews is really good at high pointing the ball. BB is small, but can just out of LFF(i care only cause kelly cares), and is quick. see if Matthews can win 1 v1 against someone who is no doubt quicker and see if BB can hang with a big boy. it’s a great barometer for both.

    • Anonymous

      I’m waiting for the Matthews-Revis/Browner showdowns during the joint practices 😉

      • 370HSSV 0773H

        Revis vs Maclin.

  • knighn

    “I think it’s time for Matthews to move up to the first team and square off against Brandon Boykin.” Sheil Kapadia
    Chip Kelly’s response:
    “Look, I know how good Jordan Matthews looks in training camp. However, we have a policy of giving 100% in practice. Jordan has the ability to run on water… kind of like Remo Williams… and we thought that would be useful on those rainy and snowy days we get in the northeast. We’re not a dome team. We play in the elements. Jordan also has the ability to levitate 15 feet in the air. We thought that would come in handy in the red zone.”
    “I’m not sure if he’s holding back out of humility or if he’s honing a yet unknown power, but until we seem some levitation… or at least some running on water, we know he’s not giving 100%. When we see one of those things, we’ll know he’s ready to go with the ones.”

    • Warhound KnowsHstryWarts&All

      Up vote just for a Remo Williams reference!

      • peteike

        right, way old school

      • laeagle

        Joel Grey approves.

    • Charliefoxtrot

      When JMatt rolls into the hood, Omar and Marlow yell out

      “JMatt comin’!!!”


      • Mr. Wu

        but instead of whisteling “Farmer in the Dell” JMatt whistles “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    Doesn’t Vince Quinn realize we can draft another running back in the next few years to replace Shady?

    • Chris

      My thoughts exactly… there is this thing called college football and the draft…

  • aub32

    I think it’s tough to give any team with a young potential franchise QB a window of only 2 years. I get what he is saying, but his point assumes that we are unable to sign or develop anyone in the next 2 years. QB is the hardest position to replace. If you have one, then you can just find or develop the pieces to put around him. We have youth in our front 7. Our secondary is not old. We have youth at WR and TE. That just leaves RB and Oline. Shady will be difficult to replace, but I am sure Kelly and Roseman can find us a top 10 RB. We already have our future LT an C. The other positions won’t be as difficult to find. Look where we found Mathis. In an organism that’s ever changing, it’s hard to predict its lifespan, unless your team has a QB in his late 30s and no one in the bullpen.

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      Nice post.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      RB & to a lesser extent OG were two positions that I hoped we’d look to add through this draft. It didn’t happen & the need wasn’t pressing ‘this year’. However they are two positions I expect to see the team look to add talented youth during the next two years. I think OG is a bit more of a need for youth next year and RB can wait an additional year. Unless there is a guy sitting there that you’d be stupid not to pick, even if he has to sit behind Shady for an extra year. It will be interesting to see how they address Shady’s salary escalating.

      • peteike

        lets not forget they can also add pieces in FA that are already established. Esp at O line spots while they groom draft picks.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Very true. I guess my preference would be to draft your ‘next guy’ while you’re still somewhat established at that position before looking at a rental from outside. If you’re looking outside in FA, to me that means you waited too long to address through the draft. Don’t get me wrong, it happens where you miss on that position in the draft and don’t want to reach. But that’s also why I don’t mind taking a guy a year earlier than expected either.

          • peteike

            ya agreed but I actually dont mind FA O linemen a lot of the time. They seem like safer bets than skill positions etc.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            No you’re right with the OL. Particularly OG, or those guys that can play at multiple spots on the OL. I also don’t mind signing a younger (sub 30yo) guy long term if he’s a find (ie; Mathis).

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            seem to like Tobin alot.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Yeah, but is he generating any real buzz as to being an heir apparent or even short term answer? If the OL is gonna remain a top unit into the next 2-3yrs & beyond, they’re gonna need to add more young studs than just 2/5 of the line. That ratio will need to increase to at least 3/5. Consider that we’ll also need a RT in the next few years as LJ slides over. Preference would be that that youth is at LT, C & RT, as you can find a decent OG in FA. Peters could prolong his career by a few years by moving inside to LG.

            Bottom line, they’ll need to focus more draft talent into the OL over the next couple years.

        • dnabrice

          They have been able to turn journeyman linemen into great solutions. Barbre will have a bigger test this year, but looked solid last year. Mathis has been great. Shady makes them look good, but I think they have an understanding of what’s needed at the position, so they can find cheap FA diamonds in the rough.

  • Adam G

    Its not like RBs are valued so lowly that no RBs have been taken in the first round of the draft two years in a row. So strange to peg a teams success on a RB.

  • southy

    Word is they drafted Matthews so he could be roommates with their 1st round pick. Everything else is gravy.

  • DoctorRick

    I think it an interesting commentary on sports journalism that the comments in here, not to mention the great articles by Sheil and T-Mac, are better than 90% of the general stuff I read. I think they just have to generate words on a daily basis and just get something, anything, out there, even if it’s nonsense.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. Marcus will have made his case to be the starter at ROLB by week 10. I’m being conservative with that I think too.

    I also think that he’ll be the type of player that’s a disruptor more than just a sack specialist. By that I mean that he’ll be a 10 sack guy that will also have a significant number of pressures, TFLs, TOs (INTs & FFs), batted passes, PBUs, etc. Exactly what you want from 3-4 OLB.

  • MagatBrackendale

    Vince Quinn, like so many other “writers” seems to have tunnel vision. Why on earth is he predicting the Eagles success or failure based on one player? Surely even he must know that it is a TEAM game? On well-stocked and well-coached teams even the quarterback is not necessarily indispensable. Important? Yes. Irreplaceable? No.
    Gowton’s piece on Foles is also silly. DBs are supposed to make INTs and break up plays, including in training camp.