Marcus Smith Now Practicing At Inside LB
Eagles first-round pick Marcus Smith II has yet to play a snap this season.
In Week 1, he was in uniform, but did not get on the field. In Week 2, he was one of the Eagles’ seven inactives.
It could be awhile before Smith contributes, but the Eagles have decided to try a different plan – for now. Smith spent the entire practice today working at inside linebacker, not outside linebacker.
“We’re actually focusing on inside today because I’m athletic enough to play in nickel packages,” Smith told Birds 24/7. “I can cover tight ends and running backs, so they were getting me in that aspect until Mike [Kendricks] comes back because Mike is down right now. So they want me to learn some of that stuff to help out the inside ‘backers.
“I didn’t do any outside linebacker today. It was all inside so I could just learn. It’ll actually help me learn the defense better so when I do go back to outside linebacker, I’ll have a better feel of it.”
Kendricks suffered a calf injury in Monday night’s game against the Colts, and the Eagles are extremely thin at inside linebacker. Casey Matthews filled in for Kendricks at first. But he was eventually replaced by Emmanuel Acho. Najee Goode had been pegged to be the top backup, but he suffered a pectoral muscle injury in the opener.
From a skill set perspective, it makes sense to try Smith inside, considering the lack of depth there. He’s a good athlete and in the preseason, Smith showed the ability to drop into coverage and tackle in space.
But learning a new position in a short amount of time could be challenging for the rookie. It’s possible that the Eagles are cross-training Smith just in case he dresses on Sunday.
“It was new to me, but I feel like I did an OK job,” Smith said. “I think as the week goes on, I’ll get better and better. I’ve got ‘Meco [DeMeco Ryans] helping me out each and every day. So if I’m active come this weekend, I think I’ll be ready.”
As for not dressing last week, Smith admitted it’s tough, but he’s trying to keep a positive attitude.
“I think I dealt with it pretty well,” he said. “I was cheering on my teammates. They played a great game. It hurts a little bit to not be out there with them or even dressed on the sideline with them. But coaches made a decision and you have to respect the decision that they make. So I just have to continue to work hard just so that they can have all the confidence in me to put me out there.”
Added Billy Davis: “It’s always a challenge to grow when you’re not getting game reps. It’s harder to do that. But that’s part of the NFL. That’s the hard part of taking somebody’s job that already has one is you’ve gotta be great in practice and you have to show that you really are making progress. And then you’re fighting for gameday reps. And when you get gameday reps, you’ve gotta make the most of it.”
It’s unclear when Kendricks will return, but the prospect of using Smith in certain packages – specifically on passing downs – is intriguing. Davis likes to disguise pressure and blitz the A-Gaps on either side of the center. Smith can cover and wouldn’t be tasked with trying to beat tackles one-on-one if he were playing inside.
“If I’m blitzing, that’s stuff that I like to do,” he said. “I like to rush on guards, centers and just put ‘em in a bind. I like to do all the stuff that Billy [Davis] has in his package, so I’m just happy to be a part of something.”