Michael Saenz
Author

Philadelphia Eagles Shouldn't Overthink Marcus Smith

May 20, 2014 4:55 AM EST

The Philadelphia Eagles have been given awful draft grades and labeled as “knee jerk” after drafting DE/LB Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick — a round or two too early as some say.

But is it really a bad pick? If the Eagles wanted and loved Smith, and they had him on the top of their draft board, why should Philly act otherwise? Why should they fall into the social convention of drafting the consensus?

Quick answer: they don’t have to, and didn’t — which is exactly why they went ahead and drafted Smith after trading down.

But now, it begs the question: what can Smith realistically offer? And for that there are two things that we need to look at.

First, What Can He Do?

Smith is somewhat of a “tweener.” In other words, he can rush the passer and drop back into coverage. Chip Kelly envisions the Eagles defense to be more like the Eagles offense, in which each player can do any number of things, offering flexibility and versatility. Smith fits that mold; at least that’s what the Eagles are hoping.

Philly technically runs a 3-4 defense but often runs 4-3 alignments — thus, the need for “tweeners.”

If there’s one thing that Smith does better than the other, it’s rushing the passer. Last season, Smith finished with 14.5 sacks, and has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4.

Here is some video of Smith in both coverage and rushing the passer:

Now, What Did The Eagles Need?

Philly, more than anything (one could argue), needed a pass-rusher to help complete their transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 and an outside linebacker, if you will. Smith has the potential to fill both of those needs. He can rush the passer with the best of them, and can hold his own in pass defense.

If Smith can help solve Philly’s pass-rushing issues, it will also have a positive impact on their secondary — it’s a domino effect, for the good. Essentially, the Eagles would have upgraded their secondary without exactly “upgrading” it. 

What Can We Expect?

It’s always difficult to answer this type of question. We don’t know how any type of player will react to pro speed or pro schemes. Ideally, Smith won’t be asked to start right away, and he’ll be able to develop into his role. He’s definitely raw, and will be a “project” going forward for this season.

Smith can very well transform into a contributor as the season begins to unfold, though, for the sake of Smith and the Eagles, it’s safe to not put expectations on him. We know he can rush the passer and defend (to a certain extent) on the outside in college — he proved that. The question, though, will remain whether or not he can translate his college success to the NFL — as is the question for all prospects and young players.  

If he can, the Eagles will be the winners in the end. Even if they are "losers" today.