Former Eagles coach (and All-Pro tackle) Tra Thomas recently appeared as a guest on CSN Philly's Philly Sports Talk show. Thomas has been a topic of conversation lately given that the Eagles didn't renew his coaching contract. During this interview, however, one of the more interesting things Thomas had to say wasn't about himself but instead his work with Eagles first round pick Marcus Smith II. Here's what he had to say:
"He's definitely going to have to get a little stronger out there because when you look at even his body type, he has the build of like a high school athlete still — a young college athlete. He needs to put on probably about a good 15 to 20 more pounds so he can really execute and be a effective out there."
OK, so that quote isn't particularly encouraging. It certainly won't leave Smith detractors feeling better about the pick. But come on. A high school athlete? This was literally my first impression upon seeing Smith for the first time in person last offseason:
Marcus Smith is very big.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) May 29, 2014
And as Tommy Lawlor notes, this is a guy who led the nation in sacks per game as a Senior at Louisville. Something makes me think not too many high school kids could do that.
Now, from watching Thomas speak in the video, it doesn't seem like he's trying to slam Smith. And Thomas isn't wrong; Smith could probably afford to put on some weight. Then again, that can be said for a lot of rookies. 2013 draft picks Lane Johnson and Bennie Logan put on significant weight last offseason.
Further, Thomas had some good things to say about Smith. "He has the same movement pattern as Connor [Barwin], where you can teach him how to work and throw his different moves in and how to help him with his timing."
The Barwin comparison isn't off-base, the way I see it. My vision for Smith is a player in Barwin's mold: not a natural pass rusher that dominates his blockers one-on-one but a guy who can make plays with his athleticism, set the edge, and drop into coverage. He's got a long way to go before he reaches a player of Barwin's caliber, but that seems to be the goal.
But you won't see "Tra Thomas compares Marcus Smith to Connor Barwin" as a headline, of course. (I'm also guilty here.)
Look, no one is arguing that Smith was an awesome pick. He only played 105 snaps the entire season and was inactive for multiple games. He fell short with respect to relative expectations for a first round pick.
That's in the past, though. Now it's all about seeing what Smith can do from here on out. Even if Smith really does have a "high school athlete" body, that's something he can work on this offseason. As mentioned above, Johnson and Logan successfully added a lot of weight last offseason and both players played well in 2014. From what I can gather, Smith is nothing like Danny Watkins. He's not going to spend the offseason away from football. He loves the game and he wants to prove his doubters wrong.
"Just watch, bro. Just watch," Smith told former Louisville teammate Lorenzo Mauldin, via Birds 24/7. "You’re gonna see me on the field a lot more, not on the sideline next year. Just be on the lookout for me."
UPDATE: Smith appeared on 97.5 The Fanatic on Saturday evening. Check out what he had to say here.
"To be honest, I'm really hungry and I can't wait to get back around the guys and be able to show again what I'm all about. It's not about anything else. It's about my teammates and the team. Chip is great. I just want to play well for him."