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Marcus Smith II: Game Action Is Next

Posted Aug 4, 2014

The little things are what matter to Marcus Smith II. He isn't about to go from Z to A as an NFL player overnight. His progress is about gradual steps and small victories ...

The little things are what matter to Marcus Smith II. He isn't about to go from Z to A as an NFL player overnight. His progress is about gradual steps and small victories.

A first-round draft pick in May, Smith is making progress as an outside linebacker here. He's doing it quietly, without tremendous fanfare. Smith has the opportunity to learn the defense behind veterans Trent Cole and Connor Barwin on a team that wants to nurture the rookie, rather than rush him onto the field.

"I feel like I'm coming along," said Smith after Monday's training session at the NovaCare Complex. "The pieces are coming together for me. I'm seeing things better. I'm recognizing things. Every chance I get on the field helps me a little more."

The next step for Smith is to take what he's learned in Training Camp and apply it on Friday night in Chicago against the Bears in the preseason opener (8 PM, 6abc). Smith benefits as much as any player on the roster with game experience, and it's possible that defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants his No. 1 draft pick to get a lot of time in the four games played before the regular season begins.

"It's just a matter of reps, reps and more reps with him," said Davis. "He's making progress, going in the right direction and doing everything we're asking him to do. I like what I've seen. Having a game situation will give us another chance to evaluate Marcus against a new scheme and different players."

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews has been the star of the Eagles' rookie class in camp, at least for those with pens and recorders and Twitter accounts who have been breathless in their praise of the team's second-round pick. Matthews has been that good. Third-round selection Josh Huff has flashed, and it's evident how explosive he is with the ball in his hands.

The defensive players from the draft? Hard to tell. The Eagles aren't tackling, so other than a pass breakup or a "win" in one-on-one situations in coverage or in pass-rushing drills, it isn't so obvious to those without benefit of watching replays of the training sessions.

"We're pleased, absolutely," said Davis of Smith. "He's working his tail off and he's getting the hang of it, improving his craft."

Smith played quarterback for his entire career until he was a freshman at Louisville, so understand just how foreign some of these defensive concepts may seem for him. Smith showed his athletic skills and his disruptive nature in his senior season at Louisville, recording 14.5 quarterback sacks and impressing with his burst off the edge and the way he could drop into pass coverage.

The Eagles didn't expect Smith to walk in and start. They expected him to do what he's done: Absorb everything and compete and make the right kind of progress.

"From the first day, that was my goal," said Smith. "I know it would be a lot to learn. I always want the challenge. It's gone the way I expected it to go. I feel like I've made strides, so getting into a game situation is going to be another kind of challenge. I'll be ready to go."

Smith is one of the players working with former All-Pro linebacker Kevin Greene, who is camp for a few days teaching the outside linebackers. Greene, who recorded 160 quarterback sacks prior to coaching in the NFL in Green Bay and Carolina, says he is "whispering sweet nothings" into the ears of the edge pass rushers, working with them on some of their techniques and on their mental game.

"He wants us to be violent in our movements and I like that," said Smith. "That is something that I can incorporate into my game every day. I feel like I play that way. It came quickly to me after playing quarterback for my entire career. It's part of what I do."

All eyes are going to be on No. 90 when he steps on the field Friday night. The action is live and the defense will look to play sound, aggressive football. For Smith, it's going to be another step in his journey.

"Putting the pieces together," says Smith of his daily goal. "I want to go out there and compete and learn more about the game. There is so much to learn. I think I'm getting there."

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