Eagles see at least a 'limited role' for top pick Smith

Posted: September 05, 2014

EAGLES defensive coordinator Bill Davis said yesterday he envisions at least "a limited role" for first-round rookie linebacker Marcus Smith in Sunday's opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"We're game-planning for certain situations," Davis said. "What they come at us with will dictate what we come back at them with, what personnel groupings we're in, how we use our players, and what the matchups are."

The Eagles labeled Smith a project from the moment they selected him after moving back from 22nd to 26th in the first round of the May draft. There has been speculation he might not be on the active list right away, but the torn ACL suffered by sub linebacker Travis Long last week might have furthered Smith's cause.

Davis said he liked the way Smith stopped trying to force the action as the preseason progressed, but "I think when you turn on the bright lights of the real season, and it's all ones against ones, I think things change a little bit."

He said he would be cautious with all his rookies, letting them show him "what they can handle, what they can't."

Smith reiterated that he is focusing on consistency.

"Coming in here, working the same exact way, every single day," Smith said. "If something bad happens, don't get down on yourself. I think the biggest thing coaches are stressing with me is just body language - if I'm tired, or if I do something wrong, don't show the opponent that I did it wrong, just line back up and play the next snaps. I think that's what you have to do to be an ultimate pro."

It's quite possible that the defensive rookie getting the most snaps Sunday won't be the first guy the Eagles drafted, but the last one - nose tackle Beau Allen, taken in the seventh round, 224th overall. Bennie Logan will start there, but Allen, the stoutest Eagle at 6-2, 335, will be part of what ought to be a strong defensive-line rotation. Davis indicated we'll see Allen a lot against the run, at least.

"If it's all big people [a Jacksonville run formation] and we're staying in base, that absolutely could happen," Davis said, when asked whether Allen could be his most prominent rookie Sunday. "If they throw three or four wide receivers at us and we're in nickel, then he'll be at the opposite end of those reps."

Later, in response to another question, Davis indicated Allen could get more snaps than Logan, depending on the flow of the game.

"He's a load in there to move, so they struggle to move him off the point, and he's very consistent with his footwork, with his hands, with his play, down-in and down-out," Davis said.

Allen, who grew up in Minnesota and played at Wisconsin, said he has a brother coming down from New York for the game.

"It'll be fun," said Allen, who said he'd attended a handful of Vikings home games growing up, and once visited Lambeau Field for Vikings-Packers. He said he never saw himself as a future NFL player back then.

"Now that I have the opportunity, it's something I've thought a lot about lately," he said, adding he will try not to be overawed.

When the Eagles drafted Allen, they said he lasted until the seventh round because he's strictly a 3-4 nose tackle, something many teams can't use. Scouting reports questioned his feet. In the preseason, he seemed to move pretty well.

Running commentary

Pat Shurmur mentioned that the Eagles have practiced tight end Trey Burton at running back, which might take a little of the pressure off the decision to keep only three running backs on the roster, including Chris Polk.

Asked about Polk getting into football shape after missing the preseason with a hamstring injury, Shurmur said, "We feel like it's gonna have to happen quickly."

Polk said he feels confident he'll be able to do what's required.

Chip Kelly's personality seems to be rubbing off on Shurmur. Asked whether he envisions giving Allen Barbre any help in his first start at right tackle for suspended Lane Johnson, Shurmur, a former Michigan State center, pointed to his chest and said, "I'm not."

More seriously, Shurmur said that he'll adjust the blocking as needed, and that Barbre has "really done a good job of making the transition to the right side."

He also said he and Kelly have no bet yet on this weekend's Michigan State-Oregon game.


Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins missed practice with what he said was a tight hamstring. Wide receiver Josh Huff (shoulder) and offensive lineman Matt Tobin (ankle) also sat out . . . The Eagles did not end up signing WR/CB Teddy Williams to the practice squad after all - he came in and left without a deal - but they completed the 10-member squad yesterday with an OLB, former Illinois State star Colton Underwood, 6-3, 256, cut last weekend by the Chargers.

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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