Don't look for much from Philadelphia Eagles 2014 NFL Draft first round pick Marcus Smith II when the Eagles open their season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday. According to Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, the rookie outside linebacker is only expected to play in a "limited role."
"We're still not at that place where we're positive with everything. We're game-planning for certain situations. What they come at us with will dictate what we can come back at them with, what personnel groupings we're in, how we use our players, what the matchups are. So all those things will fall into that decision.
"Marcus is like a lot of rookies. You have the preseason where you continually saw him get better and he got more comfortable in the scheme. I think he stopped trying to make plays and let the plays come to him a little bit more. I think when you turn on the bright lights of the real season and it's all ones against all ones, I think things change a little bit. As we move forward, we'll grow all our rookies in the same light. We'll see what they can handle, what they can't, drop 'em in their limited roles and grow it as they show us that they're capable of handling it."
Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise. For one, Smith II is only a rookie. That's not to say rookies can't contribute right away, but it's clear from this summer that the Eagles first round pick is a bit of a project. His athleticism and size combination is intriguing, yes, but he's not quite a polished product.
Then again, the Eagles were never drafting Smith II with plans to start him right away. Smith II would have had to clearly beat out returning starting outside linebackers Trent Cole and Connor Barwin for that to happen, and there was no indication that it would.
Some have wondered if Smith II would even be active on game day. With the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Travis Long, Barwin's backup at the JACK linebacker position, Smith II figures to be active. But if Long hadn't gotten hurt? Chip Kelly strongly indicated that Long, a 2013 practice squad member, would have made the roster. If that was the case, the Eagles depth chart at outside linebacker might have looked something like this:
JACK: Connor Barwin,
Travis Long, Marcus Smith II, Bryan Braman
PREDATOR: Trent Cole, Brandon Graham
Keep in mind that the Eagles only kept three outside linebackers active on game-day for most of the 2013 season: Cole, Barwin, and Graham. Casey Matthews was billed as a deep backup at both inside/outside linebacker.
It remains to be seen, then, how many outside linebackers the Eagles will keep active on game-day in 2014. Cole and Barwin are the starters while Graham is an important pass-rushing backup off the bench. It would seem like Smith II should be active since he was the team's first round pick. On the other hand, Bryan Braman may be the more useful special teams player. Perhaps the team could just activate both.
If the comment made by Davis is any indication, Smith II should be active. It just doesn't seem like he will see much, if any, playing time for now.