Marcus Smith eager to prove he's not a first-round bust

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Marcus Smith spent most of his rookie season watching from the sideline and barely contributed.

The Philadelphia Eagles expect more from their 2014 first-round pick.

''He's obviously way advanced from last year,'' coach Chip Kelly said Tuesday. ''I think he feels more comfortable. He came back in really good shape, did a great job in the conditioning test and ran around the last two days. We are excited to see how that progresses.''

Smith played quarterback his entire life before he went to Louisville and was switched to defense. He had 14.5 sacks as a senior and became the first linebacker drafted in the first round (26th overall) by the Eagles since Jerry Robinson in 1979.

But Smith struggled adjusting to the NFL. He was inactive for two games, dressed but didn't play in six others and was on the field for only 68 snaps.

''It was all mental, everything, because I can play,'' Smith said. ''I can rush the passer. I can do all the things they need me to do. The mental state - you play around with yourself and you start asking yourself, `Are you good enough to play in the NFL?' That's one thing; I had to revert to what I did in college. I feel like I'm a great player, I can rush and do all those things. So when I came back, I was ready.''

Connor Barwin, a Pro Bowl pick last year, and Brandon Graham are Philadelphia's starting outside linebackers. Graham replaces Trent Cole, who signed with Indianapolis. Smith has a chance to fill Graham's spot in the rotation as the third guy. The depth chart took a hit when Travis Long, who was competing with Smith for playing time, sustained an ACL injury on Monday.

''His understanding of the scheme is in a whole another place,'' defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. ''The rookie year is so hard. You know from the whole offseason after college ends, to the pressure of being a draft choice. The guys you see in the second year, they relax more, they're more themselves, they play smarter because they're not all nerved-up and we're hoping to see all those things come through with Marcus in this training camp.''

Smith added muscle in the offseason, increasing his weight from 251 to 265. He's eager to make an impact on defense and prove he's not a first-round bust.


DeMarco Murray watched the team's first practice Sunday from the sideline because Kelly and the training staff held him out for precautionary reasons.

''We did a hydration status test and he was a little bit high and obviously when you see guys that are high from a hydration standpoint, then you kind of pull them back a little bit because that's when they are susceptible for an injury,'' Kelly said. ''He's probably the most conditioned athlete on our team, but if you don't drink the requisite amount of water and electrolytes and have them in your system, it doesn't matter how fit you are. You don't want to lose a guy in the first day.''


Kelly doesn't like his players to tackle to the ground in training camp to prevent injuries. Defenders can hit and wrap guys up, but don't drive them down.

''We got four times to be tackled to the ground'' against the Colts and the Packers and the Jets and (Ravens), Kelly said, referring to the preseason games.


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