NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
When the Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft in May, they didn't expect him to step right in and start.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Their hope was that Smith would contribute this season as a pass-rush specialist, and then replace the 32-year-old Cole next season when Cole is another year older and his salary cap number soars from $6.6 million to $11 million.
But Smith has essentially given them nothing this season. He has played 74 snaps the entire year and hasn't even been good enough to earn regular time on special teams. Head coach Chip Kelly said Smith hasn't been consistent enough in practice to earn playing time on Sundays.
In his defense, Smith has been shuffled around because of injuries to other linebackers. He started outside and then moved inside and now is back outside, but still also is backing up inside.
Still, Smith has not shown enough in practice either inside or outside to earn regular playing time. The Eagles will play their final game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants. It's a meaningless game since both the 9-6 Eagles and 6-9 Giants have been eliminated from playoff consideration. Yet Smith still isn't expected to play much, if at all.
"The difficulty of moving from outside to inside (linebacker) and then trying to retrain your eyes and then now back outside, there's a reason for the inconsistency," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Also, and some of it is us moving him from in and out and out and in. The other part of it is he just has to settle in and play the hand he's deal and make the most of it."
Even without any contribution from Smith, the Eagles have been very good at rushing the passer this season. They head into Sunday's game ranked second in the league in sacks with 49.
The problem is, they could have used that first-round pick to address the cornerback position, which has been a real problem for the Eagles this season. And because he hasn't been on the field much, Davis and Kelly don't really know what they have in Smith or whether he is capable of replacing Cole.
"I know how people feel," Smith said. "You have a first-rounder taken at 26th overall, you expect him to play right away. Well, when I came in, I had actual guys who have played the position and guys I can learn from, not essentially get thrown into the fire. I just feel it benefitted me because I didn't have to play right away."
SERIES HISTORY: 160th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 82-75-2. The Eagles have won two of the last three meetings, including a 27-0 win over the Giants in Week 6. LeSean McCoy rushed for 149 yards in that game. The Eagles defense sacked Eli Manning six times and held the Giants to 12 first downs.
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Eagles aren't likely to re-sign Mark Sanchez, who will become a free agent after the season. But Chip Kelly needs to make a fairly quick decision on his other quarterback, Nick Foles, so that he can determine whether they need to pursue a quarterback in free agency and/or the NFL Draft.
Foles led the league in passing last season, but didn't play very well this season in eight starts before fracturing his collarbone. He has not been cleared to play in Sunday's final regular-season game against the Giants.
"I don't think you can look back on it and say this clouds this and this doesn't cloud, because that's reality of it: He got hurt," Kelly said. "We've got to make decisions moving forward in terms of what we're going to do. ...
"It doesn't matter if I (got enough of a look.) The reality is the reality. So I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games', and certain times we're going to have to make decisions. We're going to make it based on what we have. We don't have any control over the injury."
--Despite not reaching the playoffs, the Eagles had five players make the Pro Bowl: left tackle Jason Peters, running back LeSean McCoy, center Jason Kelce, linebacker Connor Barwin and return specialist Darren Sproles. Barwin, Sproles and Kelce also will be making their first Pro Bowl appearances. Five other players were selected as alternates: kicker Cody Parkey (first alternate), guard Evan Mathis (second), special teams ace Chris Maragos (second), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (third) and defensive end Fletcher Cox (sixth).
--Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles last year after missing the previous season with a torn ACL, has had the best season of his career, catching 82 passes for 1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns. While he could be one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the market in March, he is hoping to re-sign with the Eagles. "Why wouldn't I want to be here?" he said. "This is the place that drafted me and I want to end my career here. If we can get something worked out when the time is right, that's what will happen."