December 17th, 2014
The 2014 NFL draft wasn’t particularly kind to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty clear the Eagles were hoping to land one of cornerback Kyle Fuller, wide receiver Brandin Cooks or safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. But the Chicago Bears took Fuller, the Green Bay Packers nabbed Clinton-Dix and theNew Orleans Saints leapfrogged the Eagles to land Cooks.
So the Eagles smartly traded back, and at this point I know a lot of people thought the pick was going to be wide receiver Marqise Lee. Best player available, right? Wrong.
Instead, the Eagles drafted Marcus Smith II, an outside linebacker from Louisville. Smith was a relatively under-the-radar pick who had crept into late first-round discussion days before the draft. He was a pass-rushing specialist, and the expectation was that he would start opposite Connor Barwin and allow Trent Cole and Brandon Graham to develop into backup/situational roles. Unfortunately though, that hasn’t really been the case yet.
Defensive struggles have been the name of the game in Philadelphia this season. Between unstable secondary play and injuries to the linebacker corps, there’s been a lot of scrutiny placed on the defense and Smith’s name is almost always brought up. I know it’s easy to label Smith a bust, because really what has he contributed this season? He went from a day one starter to third-string linebacker and hasn’t shown any real development at all.
But we, dear Eagles fans, have to pump the brakes on this one.
You can certainly argue that when the Eagles drafted Smith, he was not the best player on the board. That’s a perfectly acceptable statement to make, but it’s clear the Eagles needed an athletic outside linebacker and they missed out on drafting Dion Jordan, a player I’m convinced would have been their guy instead of Lane Johnson.
Remember, both Graham and Cole were unknown variables at the time. They were both 4-3 defensive ends, and who knew how well they’d make the switch? Plus, there was still faith in the secondary with Nate Allen, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. The apparent collapse we’re seeing back there wasn’t something anyone could have expected to happen.
Smith still has all the potential in the world. What fans saw in the preseason was a player who was just not physically there yet. If you give Smith a year to learn the game and also to bulk himself up, I’ll bet we’ll see a much improved player come next year. Graham was once labeled a bust too, and now he’s become a productive player who is starting to talk about an extension.
Smith was taken to be a future payoff. Whether he takes over on the outside, or winds up playing inside next to Mychal Kendricks, Smith can still become the playmaker fans were all hoping he would have been this year. Give him the chance.
Doug Green is a blogger for RantSports.com