Eagles Wake-Up Call: Marcus In the Middle
With Mychal Kendricks back in the fold, Marcus Smith approached his coaches Tuesday morning to see if he would be returning to his natural position.
The answer, at least for the time being, was no.
“Nobody has really told me yet what’s going on, but my coaches keep telling me to keep learning the inside ‘backer position,” said Smith.
The 22-year-old said he is a little surprised that he is staying put and has conflicting feelings about it. Part of him (a big part, we think) wants to move back to the outside. On the other hand, he is just starting to get used to playing on the inside.
Position changes are nothing new to Smith. A quarterback his whole life, he flipped to the defensive side of the ball when he got to Louisville. By the time he was done he had racked up 24 career sacks, earned American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors and turned himself into a highly-desirable pro prospect. But he was drafted No. 26 overall to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker and isn’t getting reps there. Could this detour stunt his development?
“That’s a good question,” said Billy Davis. “I actually think with a guy with his intelligence, it will actually help him grow in that he’s not only looking through the eyes on an outside ‘backer. He had enough reps at outside linebacker and it’s not overly complicated there. It’s a lot more complicated inside. Now you move inside and you see it from a different perspective.”
The other side of that is you risk overloading the player. Smith was already dealing with his share of struggles as he transitioned to the NFL game, and now he has even more on his plate.
“It’s been a roller coaster. It’s been hard,” Smith admitted. “But at the same time you have to continue to meet with the coaches early in the morning to get the work that you need. It’s been a roller coaster ride but I’ve been playing pretty well in the games in the snaps I have been getting, so hopefully I can get more and more and just get better at it.”
Switching Smith to inside linebacker was done in part out of necessity. With Kendricks down and Najee Goode out for the season, they needed some reinforcements and Smith was a logical candidate. What happens now that they are starting to get healthier at the position?
“It’s week to week. And right now we’re not positive we have Mychal back, so Marcus is staying inside until we see a need numbers-wise to put him back outside,” said Davis. “But his growth I think is going to happen a lot faster from the inside position.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil, with an assist from LeSean McCoy, examines a new run-game wrinkle.
With the trade deadline approaching (4 p.m. next Tuesday), ESPN proposes a hypothetical in which McCoy is shipped to the Raiders.
Mychal Kendricks returned to practice with the first-stringers. Darren Sproles, Evan Mathis, and Jason Kelce were also suited up.
“I didn’t feel any instability, I didn’t feel any weakness.” Mathis very happy after testing his knee.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Bob McManaman of AZ Central provides a health update on Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell.
Defensive end Calais Campbell, still working his way back from a sprained medical collateral ligament in his right knee, did not practice Wednesday and remains iffy for Sunday’s game against the visiting Eagles.
Campbell said he wasn’t sure whether he would be able to practice Thursday or Friday but added he needs to participate fully at least one of those days to play after missing the past two weeks…
“I’ve got to practice at least on Friday. Personally, I feel like I could play (without any practice), but I won’t be the best I can be unless I have at least one day of practice. If things go well, maybe I can practice small.”
Jeff McLane of the Inquirer expects Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to load the box against the run:
Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles won’t make the same mistake. He will watch film of the first six games and come to the easy conclusion that loading the box and forcing Nick Foles and the passing game to beat Arizona will be the best way to slow the Eagles offense.
Defenses tried this at times last season, but Foles made them suffer through the air. This year . . . not so much. But last season wasn’t all roses, and for most of the second half of the Eagles’ win over the Cardinals in December, Foles was neutralized.
There were extenuating circumstances, of course. The Eagles were up, 24-7, and trying to kill the clock. But Foles couldn’t get anything going against a relentless pass rush. Down the stretch, he completed just 1 of 7 passes for 9 yards and was sacked three times, but the Eagles survived, 24-21.
We’ll hear from Nick Foles and Chip Kelly today as preparations for the Cards continue.