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. Read more »

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. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jaylen Watkins Bounces Back

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

 Billy Davis noted on Monday that the first preseason game is generally the rockiest for the rookies. It’s their first time on the big stage under the bright lights wearing the shiny pants (h/t Pat Shurmur), and the moment can get a little big for them.

Jaylen Watkins seemed to be going through some of that. The rookie corner had his share of miscues against the Bears, none more noticeable than the 73-yard touchdown he gave up in the third quarter to receiver Chris Williams.

“The play I had a was a technique issue. It was all on me,” he said. “I make that play every day in practice. It’s something that I have to translate to the field.”

Watkins walked us through exactly what went wrong.
Read more »

Vinny Curry’s Reality

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Last year, Vinny Curry said he ate everything under the sun.

He was moving from an edge pass rusher to a two-gap end in a 3-4, and was trying to bulk up in order to handle double teams in the trenches. He felt slower and sluggish and joked with reporters that his gut reached “from here to your microphone.”

His weight is down just a notch this season (he currently weighs in at 277 pounds) but looks leaner and more well proportioned. As we saw on Friday in Chicago — like when he recorded the team’s lone sack on the night — Curry is explosive off the ball and can get in the backfield quicker than any of his line mates. He has been steadily building a case for why he should be featured more prominently in Billy Davis‘ attack.

While there is a chance that happens, the reality is that Curry may never be granted anything more than a specialty role in this system. Read more »

Morgan: ‘Football Gave My Life Structure’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Davon Morgan was lying. He had to.

The 25-year-old defensive back had been waiting for this moment for 983 days, but while he prepared to leave his Philadelphia hotel room after rookie camp ended in May, he told his roommate he didn’t make the team.

“I held it in because I knew my roommate was going home and I didn’t want to make him feel worse than he already was,” said Morgan, who was the only one of seven tryout players to make the Eagles 90-man roster. “I just gave him words of advice and told him to keep putting in the work. You can never lose your faith.”

Morgan never did, even when the Jets cut him in 2011. Or after three failed Canadian Football League (CFL) tryouts. Or after a season in the Professional Indoor Football League (PIFL) failed to attract much attention.

But his focus never wavered, even if his dream of making it back to the NFL diminished by the day.

“What he did is rare, very rare,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “It’s an incredible story.” Read more »

Three Leftover Thoughts On the Eagles

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Three leftover thoughts before we head to the NovaCare Complex for practice today.

1. I had previously been on the fence in regards to whether Zach Ertz could really be a breakout player in 2014. The issue, to me, was whether he could be a good enough blocker in the run game to stay on the field. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had a telling comment on that topic yesterday.

“It’s very important for tight ends, number one, to be efficient blockers,” he said. “You don’t always have tight ends that are just going to knock them into next Wednesday, but you have to be an efficient blocker, especially if your thing is to catch passes. I think Ertz is developing more and more and more. I see his confidence starting to really build.”

Last year, Brent Celek was outstanding blocking in the run game. The point Shurmur is making is it’s OK if Ertz doesn’t reach that level in 2014 – or really, ever. He was drafted because he can be a weapon in the passing game. Read more »

Expect More Base Looks From Eagles ‘D’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Billy Davis and the Eagles made a decision going into last year’s playoff game against the Saints: Commit resources to stopping Drew Brees,and force New Orleans to move the ball with its ground game.

In the first half, the gameplan worked well as Sean Payton’s offense managed just six points. But in the second half, the Saints got going, scoring on four of five possessions to secure a victory.

In reality, it was a pick-your-poison situation. Against the Saints’ prolific passing attack, Davis wanted Brandon Boykin on the field. But against the Eagles’ nickel package, New Orleans ran 13 times for 84 yards (6.5 YPC).

Fast-forward to 2014, and Davis feels like he has more options – specifically because of the addition of Malcolm Jenkins.

“Absolutely,” Davis said, when asked if Jenkins’ versatility will allow him to stay in base more this season. “I think all of our safeties have the skill set of being able to come down and cover a third wide receiver. I don’t have to put nickel on the field. Read more »

Nolan Carroll Continues To Impress

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Brandon Boykin was the camp standout on defense last year. Every day it seemed like the Georgia product made at least one play that commanded your attention. This year, that distinction belongs to Nolan Carroll.

It didn’t move the needle much when the Eagles signed the former Dolphin to a two-year, $5.25 million contract in free agency, but he has opened some eyes since his arrival.

His moment on Thursday (or at least one of them) came during 7-on-7s. Locked up with Jeremy Maclin, Carroll extended himself to break up a Nick Foles pass in the end zone. Those PBUs have become a regular occurrence.

“He’s a very well‑rounded talent,” said Billy Davis. “He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed.  He’s a real tenacious competitor.  I love his attitude out there the way he presses and competes and puts his hands on the people, and he’s got a good knack for the ball.”

Who knows if a solid summer will translate into a productive fall like it did for Boykin but Carroll continues to impress, even if he’s not all that impressed with himself. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Three Leftovers From Davis

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis met with reporters Sunday. Below are three things that stood out.

1. We’ve written plenty in this space about the high number of snaps guys like DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin played last year. Part of that had to do with the defense’s inability to get off the field. Part of it had to do with the team’s lack of depth at certain spots. Part of it had to do with pace and style of the offense.

But going forward, Davis wants to get those guys off the field a little bit more.

“It’s something we are very concerned about,” he said. “We don’t want any of them to play all the snaps. It’s too many snaps for any one defensive player. We know we had way too many. It benefits both us and the player and DeMeco or Mychal [Kendricks] that we get a rotation in there, too. We’ll get that rotation all the time through different packages and with the addition like you touched on of some new players. It will give us a little bit more flexibility. Read more »

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