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.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
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.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
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.
PRE-ORDER SPECIAL: $40
Josh Paunil contributed to this post.