Matt Rourke/Associated Press
For the time being, Marcus Smith appears to be buried on the depth chart. Based on reports out of spring practices, the Eagles’ first-round pick was serving as the backup to outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who lined up for 94 percent of the defensive snaps in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
That being said, it would behoove the Birds to find a role for Smith. Philadelphia’s defense ranked 29th overall and dead last against the pass this past season. Clearly, the unit could use all the help it can get.
That goes double for the pass rush, which is still anchored by Trent Cole. Cole, who turns 32 in October, handled a transition from defensive end to outside linebacker better than anticipated in ’13, ultimately registering eight sacks to lead the club. That wasn’t quite enough, though, as the Eagles finished the year just six sacks out of last place.
Smith was chosen, at least in part, because of his ability to get after the passer. The Louisville product was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year with 14.5 sacks as a senior. A converted quarterback, Smith is probably raw for a full-time role as a rookie, but he could bring some athleticism to the table in a situational role.
Of course, that athleticism can come into play elsewhere. According to NFL.com, Smith clocked in at 4.68 seconds in the 40-yard dash at 6’3”, 251 pounds with 34-inch arms. A niche as a nickel linebacker spending a good portion of his time dropping into coverage isn’t out of the question, either.
Hey, defensive coordinator Bill Davis did vow to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com to reduce interior linebacker DeMeco Ryans’ playing time. Smith played all over the place in Louisville’s scheme, so it may not be as big a stretch as it probably sounds.
Whatever the case, the Eagles need to find ways to get Smith involved. Generally speaking, a first-round pick should be able to contribute as a rookie, if for no other reason than to hasten his development.