FanPost

Marcus Smith's Versatility

I'm not a member of the Eagles organization and I wasn't in the war room (although I would've loved to hear that discussion), and neither was anyone on here, so odds are that we're never going to figure out the exact circumstances of why we took Smith at 26, although Howie did shed some light on the situation. So I'm not going to talk about whether I think the pick was reach or if he would've been there at 54, instead, I want to highlight Smith himself and one of the reasons the front office gravitated towards him; versatility.

Bill Davis has made it well known that the team wants versatile players that can line up at various spots and give the defense a multitude of looks, and in theory it's an awesome idea. You can have a single group of personnel lining up in many different formations and positions, and for offense to keep track of all of them or find any patterns in the play calling will be much more difficult. And Marcus Smith fits the "versatility" key perfectly. I watched all the film available of him on Draft Breakdown, which were games against USF, Houston, Miami, UConn, and Rutgers, and charted on every passing play where he lined up, what position he lined up in, what technique he used to rush the passer, and how often he dropped into coverage. It is a rather limited sample size with only five games, but that's all they had available, and I only charted the passing plays.

From five games alone, Smith lined up at ROLB, LOLB, MLB, DE, and DT. It seemed as the later the games went on, the more he played at the DE position, while earlier in the games he was much more apt to drop into coverage and rush from the linebacker position. All told, Smith rushed from a 2 point stance 53% of the time, and rushed from a 3 point stance 47% of the time, so almost perfectly even. This is the kind of versatility Davis likes to see. Smith is a polished player who has plenty of experience rushing from both the 2 and 3 point stances, something he's surely going to be asked to do quite a bit next year. The side he rushed from also didn't matter, as he had a perfectly even 50-50 split on rushing from both the right and left side. Charlie Strong did a great job moving him around and giving him different opportunities to operate in space. Smith's favorite move by far is the speed rush to the outside of the tackle, and I counted about 22% of his rushes were speed rushes to the outside. The core percentage of his rushing techniques were often a combination of some speed mixed with bull rush, with a lot of hand fighting. But only 4% of his rushes were exclusively bull rushes, and only 4% included a spin move, which looked rather sloppy at times. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it means there's plenty of room for technique improvement, and he has the physical tools to make it work.

The one thing I was a little alarmed about were his coverage numbers. Smith recently said he figured he dropped back a significant amount (I think he said somewhere around 50-50), but in the plays I charted, he only dropped back 17% of the time, granted I could only look a 5 games worth of film). That doesn't mean he didn't perform well when dropping back, it just means he doesn't have too much experience in that field, but that's to be expected with a lot of college DEs transitioning to 3-4 OLBs.

Smith has shown the versatility that the Eagles like, and whether or not it was a reach, he's shown plenty of potential to fit exactly what Billy Davis wants with this defense.

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