A position switch would be in the under-performing Marcus Smith‘s best interest.
The Philadelphia Eagles‘ 2014 draft was one of the most disappointing in recent years. Aside from Jordan Matthews and Beau Allen, everyone is either playing a different position or is off the team entirely.
The team selected Marcus Smith, despite him being a projected third-rounder. It was a reach, but it was justified, as it was a position of need. Chip Kelly loved versatility and Smith could provide that.
Unfortunately, that reach turned out to be exactly that. Smith is averaging about 8 tackles, and 1.5 sacks per season. He hasn’t been as bad as some say. He’s just a first-round pick, putting up fifth-round numbers.
Now that the Eagles declined to pick up Smith’s fifth-year option, his days in Philadelphia seem to be totaled. Production will likely be little, meaning an extension is unlikely.
However, that lack of production will come at edge rusher. Behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry and Chris Long, he will see little action. Especially given the fact that a release is a possibility.
On the other hand, the linebacker position is lacking talent. Besides Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham, the Eagles have little proven talent. Cutting Mychal Kendricks would save a good amount of money, and that seems to be a move the Eagles are prepared to make.
The best option behind him is Najee Goode, and he’s no lock to make the roster. The rest of the position is comprised mostly of special teams aces, nothing more.
That is where Marcus Smith could step in.
At 6′ 3″, 250 pounds, Smith has very similar measurables to Luke Kuechly. Now, by no means is he Kuechly, but the measurables are there.
As for play style, Smith possesses the qualities needed in a linebacker. Having played defensive end, he knows how to stop the run. In fact, aside from rushing the passer, that is his primary job. He is also big enough to tackle running backs. The running backs shouldn’t be able to plow him over. He’s a lot taller and heavier than a majority of backs, so when it comes to stuffing the run, he is fine there.
The next thing Smith would need to do is cover. As a linebacker, he would have to drop into coverage, specifically against tight ends. His 40 time is on par with Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, and Jordan Reed. Keeping up with tight ends should be no issue.
The final key aspect of a linebacker’s game, is block shedding. The only way it differs from defensive end is it doesn’t happen on every play. Smith can do just that. He put up 2.5 sacks this past season. Although that’s not a great number for an edge rusher, for a linebacker that is pretty good.
Even more than Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. Getting to the passer isn’t the issue for Smith, it’s getting there on a consistent basis. Moving him to linebacker, would better suit his pass rushing skill set, as 2.5 sacks would be a respectable number.
It also doesn’t hurt that Smith played some linebacker at Louisville. In fact, he entered Louisville as a quarterback. If he managed to switch from quarterback to defensive end, it shouldn’t be difficult to move back to linebacker. It’s certainly something Smith is capable of.
Required team activities are quickly approaching. Smith’s chances of making the roster are decreasing quite quickly. If the former Louisville standout was willing to make a position change, those chances would increase drastically. Smith’s play style, size, and past experience prove he could get it done. The end result remains to be seen, but it’s something that could benefit both Smith and the Eagles.