Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate: Marcus Smith


Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Up next on my Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate mini series is outside linebacker and last years first round pick Marcus Smith. In this mini series, I’ll discuss each player that has a chance to breakout next season and give my thoughts on whether I think they will breakout or not. An average player may breakout by earning substantial playing time and taking his opportunity whereas a good player may breakout by becoming great.

I previously looked at Josh Huff and you can find that here. This time I’ll look at Marcus Smith because I think a lot of fans have given up on him already. I don’t blame them either, Smith was terrible last year and there’s no disputing that. Let’s begin by looking at why some people may be optimistic about this season for Marcus Smith.

Why he will breakout:

You could argue that last season almost shouldn’t count.

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He never really had a hope of getting much playing time with Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham ahead of him on the depth chart. This year he has a much easier time of earning playing time with Trent Cole gone. Brandon Graham has never started before at outside linebacker for a whole season and he will probably be rotated on occasions like Trent Cole was last year. Smith could in theory take over the Brandon Graham role from last year.

Due to injuries, Smith was moved to inside linebacker halfway through the season too and had no success there. Changing positions halfway through the season didn’t help him at all and it probably stopped him from progressing. This year he will stay at outside linebacker which will help him improve. Smith was undersized all of last season too and I expect him to have bulked up in the offseason.

Whatever you think of Smith, he was a first round pick just last year and he therefore must have some talent and the Eagles saw something in him. The Eagles coaching staff will be desperate to get at least something out of him next year. There have been many first round picks who haven’t looked good for a season or two and then turned the corner. Look at Brandon Graham or Jerry Hughes with the Bills for example.

Smith won’t breakout with 10+ sacks next year, I’m pretty sure of that. However, if he goes from being useless to a decent role player, you could say he did breakout because right now nobody expects anything from him after last year. There’s a good chance he’ll see snaps in Brandon Graham’s previous role, meaning he will be rushing the quarterback behind Fletcher Cox. That would help any outside linebacker get pressure, the oppositions offensive line won’t be focusing on Smith that’s for sure.

Why he won’t breakout:

Maybe Marcus Smith is a bust and just isn’t very good. Despite the Eagles taking him in the first round, I can’t recall him ever being mocked in the first round or in any analysts top 50 players. I gave him a late second round grade personally. So although he was taken in the first round, this doesn’t mean he has the talent of most first round picks.

Smith looked lost when he was on the field last year and didn’t look like a particularly good athlete either. Sometimes people become too focused on a players snap count. Marcus Smith could play over 200 or 300 snaps next year and he could still not be very good. Even if the Eagles coaching staff desperately try to get something out of him, if he isn’t good enough he won’t breakout or turn into a good player.

There is a chance Smith won’t even be the third outside linebacker on the depth chart. The Eagles are very high on Travis Long who was injured last year and Chip Kelly recently said that Vinny Curry has been playing some outside linebacker. Curry is a far superior pass rusher than Smith and he could stop Smith from getting on the field on third down.


I would be surprised if Smith does anything good next season. I really do hope I’m wrong but I am sadly one of those fans who think he has a long way to go before he’s even average. I think he was a Howie Roseman pick and not a Chip Kelly pick and Chip therefore won’t force him onto the field. I think Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin are both too good to come off the field much and it could take an injury to increase Smith’s playing time. Even if Smith does get on the field, I saw nothing last season that showed me he’s good enough to make an impact right away. Maybe Smith will develop into an average or good player but I don’t think that will happen as quickly as next season.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate: Josh Huff

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