Smith Studying Clay Matthews Tape

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Eagles coaches have been clear about what they want from their outside linebackers: rush the passer, set the edge against the run and drop in coverage.

For first-round pick Marcus Smith II, one of those aspects will be more challenging than the other two.

“It’s very fair to say that,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis when asked if the pass-rush will be the last thing to come.

“I think you saw his athleticism. Those guys are thinking a lot. The very first preseason game is always their hardest. They have the most nerves. They have the wow factor. They’re in the NFL. That settles after a couple plays, couple quarters. Now you typically see the second, third and fourth preseason games with young guys, you see big growth.”

Smith had some nice moments in his preseason opener. He made a nice tackle in space and batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage. According to the rookie, coaches said he made no mental errors.

While the Eagles ask their outside linebackers to be more versatile than some other 3-4 teams, Smith knows that over the course of his career, he’ll be judged by his pass-rush.

So earlier this week, when he was watching practice film on his iPad, he fired up his iPhone also and looked at cut-ups of Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

“He’s just awesome,” Smith said. “He has a continuous motor and he doesn’t stop. If I can get my motor like that and get my hands as fast as his, then I think I can be a great football player.

“He has great hands. He doesn’t let anybody get into his body. His hands are so fast. And I think that’s one of the biggest things. You’ve gotta have great hands.”

In college, Smith used a speed rush around the edge almost exclusively to get to the quarterback. In the NFL, against higher-quality tackles, he’s finding he needs to add to his repertoire.

“That’s probably the hardest thing right now to get adjusted to because everybody has great technique,” he said. “And I want to get my technique up to the standards of everyone else.”

Outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Trent Cole have helped Smith every step of the way. The rookie appears to have no sense of entitlement. He wants to play, but has made it clear that a rotational role suits him just fine until he earns more snaps.

Smith is also getting help from another player on the offensive side of the ball: Jason Peters.

“He comes over and tells me what I did wrong on a pass-rush or what he may see so that I can win,” Smith said. “He always comes over and says a little something so I can do better.”

Preseason game reps are another part of the process for the rookies. Davis will be hesitant to blitz and show exotic looks because he wants to see if players like Smith are capable of winning their one-on-one battles.

The rookie will likely rotate in with the second team and take another shot at getting to the quarterback this week.

“Me practicing against the Patriots helped me out a lot,” Smith said. “Going up against really big guys, the guys that protect Tom Brady is a big deal for me.”

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  • peteike

    Gus has Jags going in right direction I think. Their D look pretty solid last night. I think preseason is funny though. Once Cutler got that TD drive and the jags kept getting FGs, they were within a TD I think fairly quickly. Just in terms of how a game and momentum change, in the regular season that may have ended Bears 35, Jags 24 or something. Being preseason, it turns out to be wow the Jags look decent didnt they haha. Smith will keep improving, it will be a slow process even though we know we all want instant results out of our first round picks. Just ask BG, were still waiting.

    • southy

      hopefully the refs won’t blow that roughing the passer call so egregiously in the regular season either. Jags had em.

      • peteike

        the refs have been horrendous so far in preseason

    • PaoliBulldog

      I liked Bradley and I think he was the Birds’ second choice while CK was in limbo. Great guy from what I know, would have been OK in Philly, but gawd, Chippah is the most interesting coach in the NFL. Makes for a better offseason.

      • peteike

        oh no doubt, how can you not just love that offense. It looks like even when they make mistakes its not the defense making a play, feels like we made a mistake half the time instead. Always seems like they are making things happen, almost looks easy at times, just love it. D is another story, still growing.

        • peteike

          I mean you can practically taste the kool aid in a comment like that

        • PaoliBulldog

          It was obvious that Gus was going to either get a head coaching gig or stay in Seattle as DC, but I would have loved him in Philly as DC. Davis is still a work in progress, and I think he’ll work out, but Gus would have been a home run.

          • Always Hopeful

            I sense that if we get Billy D the peices he’ll get the defense to a contending worthy level. Don’t need to be the ’91 Eagles, ’85 Bears or the 2000 Ravens.

            Hopefully they can add/develop pass rushers, ’cause we’ll most likely will be playing with leads.

          • PaoliBulldog

            What worries me about Davis is that for all his talk about fitting scheme to personnel, he’s trying to turn Cole and Graham into linebackers and can’t seem to do anything with Curry. Maybe Graham and Curry just suck, but I would not be surprised to see them move on and become more productive.

          • Always Hopeful

            He inherited players that don’t fit the scheme exactly. This process of over hauling the defense is incomplete. It would’ve been easier if they stayed a 4-3 D, but that’s not what Chip wanted.

            For now, we have to hope the coaches can coach up the younger guys, AND get the most semblance of roundness from their square pegs.

            I wish we could see a starting defensive line of Graham, Thorton, Cox and Cole/Curry. Maybe we see something similar to this more often on 3rd and long. (With Curry replacing Thorton?)

            I just try and keep in mind that the D, even more so than the O, isn’t “done” yet.

  • southy

    Hey Marcus, does Chip’s house need a fresh coat?

  • B-West

    Jason Peters is the best.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    i’m drinking the Kelly Kool-aid by the pitcher, but the only area he still hasnt sold me is having 2 versatile OLBs (i get the theory). Get me a James Harrison Jr, now that’s a 3-4 OLB! we’ll see, between Smith being rookie and Cole getting alot of snaps, feel like it’ll be until mid ’15 season till we’ll see what Kelly/Davis want from a LB corp.

    • southy

      I’ll take the opposite perspective. Give me a player that’s good at playing defense, not just the sexiest part of it. Sure, it’s exciting to have a guy who can notch 16 sacks a season rushing 95% of the time, but that leaves 900+ plays where he’s leaving his team exposed while he sells out for the QB if he can’t do the other stuff.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        we’ll see, as i said, i get the theory. but has there ever been a top quality 3-4 defense with 2 versatile non-qb killer OLBs? kelly and davis arent reinventing the 3-4 here, just going further than anyone else has is disguising who’s 4th or 5th guy coming. still need OLBs to be able to get to qb at a high percentage. If Smith ends up being another Barwin, who is a good player, but not able to get to qb on his own, i’ll be happy. and i’ll still want another OLB that can get after qb.

        • southy

          we’ll see it in the team stats. if their theory is right you should see it in increased pass rush efficiency across the group, and general sowing of mayhem and confusion across opposing offensive lines.

          • peteike

            yup, and I still believe you win in the trenches esp come playoff time.

        • anon

          like on offense it’s scheme over talent. I just don’t think Billy D is as inventive as CK is. The problem is the scheme sort of looks for the white elephant of OLBs. If you have a great rusher not only does it lead to sacks and pressures but it requires the OL to adjust maybe allowing your weak side guys to get freed up and do other things.

    • peteike

      This website is the keg

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        hopefully defense has us doing keg stands

    • B-West

      I see it as another coaching over talent thing. Versatility in your players allows for more creativity in the scheme and play calling. Offensively this is awesome with Chip at the helm, and the reason why this year might be even better with Sproles and Year 2 Ertz in the arsenal.

      Defensively? Billy still has to prove that he can generate pressure with scheme and play calling. I’ve liked what he’s has done so far, and I think they have great teachers on that side of the ball. Given the defensive philosophy, the pressure has to come from the DC, and that is yet to be seen.

      • aub32

        I’d prefer to rely on talent. NYG and SEA didn’t out scheme two of the best QBs in history.

        • B-West

          I tend to agree. OLBs are strange in that you want a well rounded player, but as soon as you find out they are an elite pass rusher, it makes no sense to drop them into coverage. So, if the Birds do find an ideal guy who is great in coverage and a menace going after the passer, they’d be fools to drop him into coverage. So then, you need TWO ideal, incredibly rare guys who are great in coverage and a menace going after the passer. And by the time we have the great fortune of having those two guys and our ideal defense, it’ll be 2030 and Chip will have retired and the new coach will want a 4-3.

          I just gave myself a headache.

        • Adam G

          This is true, but Andy was definitely out schemed against Gruden and the Bucs in the NFC championship game.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            I thought I saw something there we could take advantage of.

    • paul from nc

      I’d prefer a beast LB over a versatile one.
      I understand what they want, and 2 would be great. But how many of them are there? Scheme = trickery, vs smack mouth football. Take your pick.

  • knighn

    Just remember Marcus Smith II, this is the most important part:
    watch Clay Matthews, NOT Casey Matthews!!

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      do not mix up those tapes!

    • CrackSammich

      I imagine Casey has got to be pissed reading this article.

      • Septhinox

        Nah, He’s been busy trying to sell his condo.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I think a lot of people are forgetting that Smith isn’t exactly a schmo when it comes to rushing the QB. It was what he did best at Louisville & became better and better at as each year progressed after switching over to defense just 3yrs ago. Now his coverage skills can be chalked more up to natural ability than skill and I think the plan with him is to use him a position that allows him to grow steadily and improve his technique as a pass rusher (at the NFL level), while using his natural abilities to contribute immediately. I also think they’d like to utilize his cerebral aptitude and get his mind working on breaking down the opposing offense so that it becomes second nature.

    I prefer to look at Smith as a defensive weapon rather than just a one trick pony that can rush the QB but nothing else. I’d much rather have the guy that perform a number of tasks and be very good at them all, than a guy that can do just one thing exceptionally but not really hold any value otherwise. Heck, I even managed myself & my employees that way for years. In the long run my versatile employees performed the best and my employees that would only focus on one aspect of the business didn’t last very long.

    • RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

      The fox knows many tricks, Dee Ford knows one good one.

      I dont know man. I get what the birds are doing, but the lack of a pass rush is starting to worry me.

      • Always Hopeful

        Let’s see how the preseason progresses, and see if Billy D has installed some effective stuff come the regular season.

        Last season’s 3rd and long woes were back again versus the Bears. Let’s wait and see though. That’s where I’m putting my hope

        • RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

          yeah me too, but if blitzes are the answer, we won’t be able to tell during the preseason, because teams do so little blitzing.

          Side note. I remember being at an Eagles/Jets preseason game during Rich Kotite’s first game back at the Vet. The game must have been very personal for him ’cause his D blitzed on just about every down. We burned him over and over. Left the game convinced that Chris T. Jones was destined for stardom.

          • Always Hopeful

            Ha, ha Chris T. was good before he got hurt, wasn’t he? Or, he showed some promise.

    • peteike

      “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.”

      “Much to learn you still have…my old padawan.” … “This is just the beginning!”

  • TNA

    I bet CK can’t wait to get Mo’ne Davis in front of the Eagles and talk about the importance of team, technique, and staying cool under pressure. She throws rocks with consistently great mechanics. And in interviews, she’s preternaturally poised, coherent and pithjy. Amazing young lady. Hope life doesn’t chew her up and spit her out. She is and would be a great ambassador for Philly.

  • PaoliBulldog

    I’ve watched Ocean’s Eleven a half dozen times and I still don’t look like George Clooney.

    • NickS, Combine Warrior

      Or Brad Pitt

  • jshort

    What’s with the Marcus Smith ll….Is that like Jr. ? He should have waited until he had at least a 15 sack rookie season before adding the ll. Like a Muhammad Ali. Or 5 to 8 sacks like Jaqua (thomas) Parker, What’s with the # thing since the 3 guy?

    • Warhound KnowsHstryWarts&All

      Yeah, I think #s after names are for Popes and Kings. Maybe he’d be Marcus Smith II if he was the 2nd of that name to play LBer for the Eagles. Oh well, I’m pissing into the wind.