With Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks out for Sunday's game, the Eagles will need to do some shuffling in the linebacking corps. The team re-signed Najee Goode earlier this week, and head coach Chip Kelly has already explained that Brad Jones will move back inside to provide depth behind DeMeco Ryans at Jordan Hicks. With all of those pieces moving around, there appears to be an opportunity for outside linebacker Marcus Smith to shine.
Fans all know Smith's story. The first round pick in 2014 struggled to get playing time during his rookie season, partly because of Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham in front of him, but also because of Smith's difficulty in adapting to the NFL level. But if there was ever a time for Smith to prove himself as a first-round talent and become a valuable piece of the Eagles' defense, this weekend's pivotal game against the New York Jets is precisely that moment.
It would once again seem that all eyes will be on Smith this weekend whenever he takes the field, waiting for him to make a big play. But Smith doesn't feel the pressure; instead, he's just focused on getting on the field and doing his job.
"I definitely want to go out there and make plays, but at the same time you have to remember that this is the same game that I've been playing since I was five," Smith said this week. "You just have to go out there and do your job and the plays will come. That's the biggest thing for me. I just want to go out there and have fun and get the job done.
"I definitely want to be out there on the field, but I don't think you can think about those things or worry about those things. You've got to take it one day at a time, and once I get to the point where I'm in the game, I'll take it one play at a time. I'm just ready to go out there and perform really well because I feel really comfortable with what I'm doing."
For the Louisville product, trying to do too much too soon could have an adverse effect on his playing style.
"You never want to overdo anything, because I think when you overdo it, you kind of miss plays," Smith said. "You just have to do exactly what the coaches tell you to do, and even coach (Bill Davis) said 'Just do your job, and plays will come after that.' I think that's what the whole defense is based off of and I just live by what our defensive coordinator talks about."
Smith entered this year's Training Camp with plenty to prove in his second NFL season, as he attempted to make that jump from Year 1 to Year 2 that so many players say is the key to a strong NFL career. He had a nice preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts, but a hamstring injury ended his preseason early.
He was a healthy scratch last week against Dallas, but now the linebacker is confident that his time away from the field will prove to be beneficial as he makes his return to the gridiron.
"Even when I was down, that was more time for me to get into the playbook and get my mental reps in," Smith said. "I think that helped me out a lot and I'm definitely past where I was in the Indianapolis game, so I'm ready to go."