Eagles Wake-Up Call: What Life’s Like For Marcus Smith II

Marcus Smith

Tra Thomas wasn’t wearing pads or a uniform. Instead, he was dressed in a black Eagles t-shirt and black shorts.

With his hat cocked to the side and dark sunglasses covering his eyes, Thomas settled into his stance at left tackle just as he’d done thousands of times throughout the course of his 12-year career.

Lined up across from him, angled to the left, was rookie Marcus Smith II. Thomas, now an assistant on Chip Kelly's staff, started 174 games in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl three times. He's seen 4-3 fronts, 3-4 fronts and everything in between. On some weeks, he faced the game's best pass-rushers. On other occasions, guys that had no chance of getting past him.

In 1998, the Eagles took Thomas in the first round. In 2014, they took Smith. And on Monday after practice, the two were working together.

"Just working on how to set up different moves, outside spin, one-hand stab, bull-rush, speed rush, just getting off the ball a little quicker," Thomas said. "So we just try to work on a lot of different things and see what sticks with him."

Added Smith: "We were working on different pass-rush moves cause I only have a certain few. Tra was just giving me pointers on what tackles do and what they see. So if I can switch my feet up or mess with their mind, I can be a good pass-rusher. He was just helping me out cause he was in it for 12 years. He’s seen it all."

It's been an eventful few days for Smith. On Friday, he played 73 snaps against the Patriots, second-most on the team. On Sunday, Kelly said the Eagles needed more production from the rookie. And yesterday, defensive coordinator Billy Davis echoed those sentiments.

"Marcus played a lot of reps the other night and had his share of mistakes and struggled a little bit," Davis said. "Going forward, he's going to get a lot of reps. The game is moving too fast in his brain right now in my opinion. As soon as it slows down for him and he can settle down and play with a little more confidence, I think he'll continue to grow.

"He's got the skill set. It is part of growing pains that you have with young guys. I think Marcus is fine. He's going to be fine. He's got to relax, settle down and trust his technique... instead of going and trying to make plays, which I think he's in that mode. He needs to just do his job and let the plays come to him."

By all accounts, Smith is putting in the work, not making any excuses and seeking guidance from a variety of resources. He's fully aware of the expectations that come with being a first-round pick, and he knows the Eagles could benefit from him making an impact as a rookie.

When Kelly was asked about the team's third-down woes, he pointed directly to the pass-rush. Smith is expected to help in that area eventually. It's just unclear when that impact will be felt.

"When you look at young ends, I think a lot of times they just think they can run around everybody," Thomas said. "And they don’t understand, look, you’ve got to take the fight to us [tackles]. You’ve got to initiate it. So the quicker you can take an offensive lineman out of [his] timing, then the more chance of success you’ll have. I think that he’s starting to figure that out, and that’s one of the things that we keep working on. Just trying to help get him a little bit better."

The dynamic surrounding Smith's development is fascinating. The coaches obviously have no issue offering their honest assessments, even if it comes off as critical.

Smith insists he can take it and has leaned on his teammates for support.

"Sometimes you just need somebody to kind of pick you up," said Malcolm Jenkins, one of the players who's helping Smith along. "But I also give him a little tough love too. I’m not gonna feel sorry for him. Like I told him in the game, this is a man’s league and men get beat all the time. You’ve gotta have that short memory and be able to stop the bad string of plays when they come and make something good happen for yourself. So he’s gonna go through that learning process, and I think every player goes through it, and he’ll be fine.

"Since I’ve met him, since he got here, he hasn’t made an excuse for anything. And a lot of times, you’ve got young players that’ll try to blame whatever it is. He hasn’t done that. That’s a good quality to have. He owns up to his mistakes and recognizes he needs to play better. And he actually asks questions and is locked in at meetings so he can make those adjustments to get better."

For rookies, especially, each day is a test. The Eagles have a short week, and Smith will get another chance Thursday night against the Steelers to show what he's learning.

"I want to get out there and contribute as soon as I can," he said. "These preseason games have been very helpful to me. When we go out there and go play the Steelers, I’m gonna get after the quarterback. That’s what I’m gonna do. Coaches are gonna let me loose, and I’m gonna go do that."


Game review: My position-by-position look at the Eagles' defensive performance vs. New England.

"My toe was really bothering me." LeSean McCoy returns to practice.

T-Mac on why it's working for Mark Sanchez so far.


Paul Domowitch of the Daily News on Allen Barbre:

NFL Network's Brian Baldinger, a former offensive lineman who is the television analyst for the Eagles' preseason games, has reservations about Barbre. Thinks the Eagles' other top backup offensive lineman, 6-6, 290-pound second-year man Matt Tobin, is a better athletic fit for this unit than Barbre.

"He's not nearly as athletic as Lane or the rest of the line," Baldinger said. "He just isn't. They don't even look the same. This guy doesn't run like everyone else.

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com has a kicker name to keep an eye on:

That would leave second year kicker Dustin Hopkins on the outside looking in. Hopkins was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, and he beat out Rian Lindell for the starting job after a perfect (six for six) preseason. Unfortunately, Hopkins injured his groin, the Bills signed Carpenter, Hopkins was placed on IR, and has still yet to kick in the regular season.

In terms of leg strength, Hopkins is everything Henery is not. In his final season at Florida State, Hopkins hit five of six field goal attempts from outside 50 yards. For his college career, he was nine of 15.


The Eagles have a walk-through today, and then we'll talk to players and coaches.

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  • southy

    I’ve been on the Marcus Smith bandwagon since I’d heard of him as a draft prospect. It’s good to see he’s working and focused, but if someone says the words “valley of darkness” it’s time to jump off.

    Also, sounds like KVN is having a tough time adjusting, fwiw.

  • TNA

    OT: will the stricter calling of downfield contact rules impact the Eagles’ mesh plays where a natural pick is created?

    • JosephR2225

      I don’t think it should. If you watch when the Eagles run it they aren’t really trying to actively engage any defensive players, and the defensive guys usually are fighting through each other to stick with their man coverage.



      • Corey Dawson

        The 5 yards is a good point. It’s clear that they’re within 5 in the gif (Desean is 3, the TE (I think it’s Celek) is 4).

      • macadood

        poor ryan kerrigan

      • dnabrice

        Low five for 10k is great.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      It looks like the birds keep the meshing within five yards if that matters. If they get outside of five yards and the receiver maintains running form then the flag will probably get thrown on the defensive player anyway.

  • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

    I think we’re so spoiled as fans by seeing a select few rookies have success at different positions. It’s STILL the NFL. 99 / 100 of these guys can’t step in and just be dominate. It takes work, resiliency, and good coaching. By all accounts this guy works and stays positive and I believe in our coaching. Give it time people, he’s got the physical requirements. Now, he just needs to add to his tool box as Chipper would say.

    • Token

      Nobody is expecting him to dominate. Just hoping to not see TEs and WRs blocking him to the ground. You hope to see a bit of talent flash out of your 1st round pick.

      • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

        I’m with you, I just think it takes a bit of time. Every level get’s that much harder. TE’s in this league are probably as strong or stronger than most tackles he faced in college. When I made the jump from freshman to varsity as a sophomore (played D-End in a 4-3) in HS I got my ass handed to me on more than one occasion by a FB or TE. Once I settled down and got acclimated to the speed of the game though, I was back to my old self.

        • anon

          He didn’t play against first round talent, he played against a lot of guys that were UDFAs, late round guys etc. and couldn’t flash – that’s the red flag for me. Not even flash — he had 1 solo tackle in 73 snaps. We might as well be playing with 10 guys.

          • Travis Papa

            This may be a record that a guy is declared a bust 2gms into the preseason. That is efficient scouting. We should probably cut him in favor of Travis long in the final cuts. Sweet but shrewd move! I love it!

          • https://twitter.com/richcolton RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

            who’s calling him a bust?

          • anon

            Not a bust, but a reach. If you take smith in the 2nd or 3rd we aren’t having this discussion. No one cares that huff isn’t playing well / injured.

          • Travis Papa

            I thought we got past all this reach none sense on here months ago. Just in your mind call Smith our 2nd rd pick and Matthews our 1st rd then cut Smith a lot of slack for at least 365 days til he’s actually supposed to take on a huge role and replace Cole. Until that time and if he’s struggling then it’s ok to get on him. Matthews can bare Smith’s burden of expectations until then.

          • Amar, CB who bought in

            Why call him a 2nd rd pick when he isn’t one ??
            Just because Jordan Matthews is playing like a 1st rounder…
            What good does it do to the Eagles?

          • Chip Reid

            yeah, he’s playing more like a 5th round pick at this point.

          • willy

            the kid is very, very raw and was not close to the 26th best player in the draft. But that’s not his fault. Picking him in the first round is an indictment of those who drafted him. If he plays more minutes than any rookie in a game and has only 1 tackle in that time, and if he cannot move a lineman backwards or shake him with a move, and you have to bring in a former player to work with him, then you have misjudged his ability in drafting him that high.

          • Travis Papa

            Thomas is a coaching intern. Somebody working OT at practice to better themselves is not a bad thing. It shows great work ethic and character for him to recognize there’s a problem and he can learn from a seasoned veteran then take advantage of that opportunity to be better in the future. I would be more concerned if he was just saying oh well I suck time to go home.

          • https://twitter.com/richcolton RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

            nobody knows nothing, since he hasn’t played a game yet, but you’re right. those things worry me. he certainly has the physical skills to be as good as Barwin (which we’ll need in this defense). I don’t see any indication of him ever turning into an elite pass rusher.

          • Anebriated

            You are right, 2 preseason games into his career we should probably just cut him now and save the hassle.

      • MagatBrackendale

        Jenkins: “Like I told him in the game, this is a man’s league and men get beat all the time. You’ve gotta have that short memory…”.

    • JosephR2225

      I agree, but he’s not being asked to be dominant. And I don’t mind a project pick with a high upside, but usually you don’t see them so much in the first round. There are no sure things in the draft, but in the first round I would think you want your pick to be a little surer than this.

      • Anebriated

        This is true for top of the first round picks. those bottom 10 spots of the first round are generally better used for guys with the right attitude who have high ceilings that are coachable who can turn into that player in a few years. Give the guy some time.

      • macadood

        and what, take Pope Matthews then in the first just because he can likely contribute at the slot position right away?

        Or would you rather have Manziel

  • Kleptolia

    You know, I don’t think the coaches statements on Smith are all that critical. I think they are just truthful.
    They aren’t down on him, they just understand where he’s at and what he’s capable of.
    I think the fans and writers in the NFL are so used to the professional business-speak employed by so many coaches and office personnel that we take anything less than praise as a thinly veiled critique.
    Let’s face it, everybody can so their jobs better, it just so happens that NFL players do their job in front of an audience.

    Not that I’m criticizing you, Sheil. Just explaining my perspective. :-)

  • peteike

    Clowney looks like a beast, man is he fast off the edge. Like that they are throwing Smith in there a bunch, nothing like game time action and a lot of it to see things. Regardless of what string they are, its obvious now this guy is going to need some time. Ill worry if by the second half of the season he isnt doing anything or making mistakes.

    • dnabrice

      There’s a reason that guy was as sure of being the #1 pick as any in recent memory.

  • Amar, CB who bought in

    Dustin Hopkins – Reliable leg