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Eagles Mailbag: Marcus Smith could be the next Brandon Graham

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Eagles Q&A.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the BGN Mailbag. This post will be here every weekend from now until forever, or maybe not. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who sent in a question. Let's talk some Philadelphia Eagles football.

To the Q&A...

@Jonester21 asks: What’s the over/under on Marcus Smith snaps this year?

Marcus Smith played a total of 105 snaps in his rookie season. While some were understandably disappointed that the team's first round pick did not get a lot of playing time, in hindsight it should have been expected. Since the implementation of Philadelphia's 3-4 defense in 2013, the Eagles have really only used three outside linebackers: the two starters and one backup. The past two seasons, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin have been the starters with Brandon Graham rotating in off the bench. The fourth outside linebacker in 2013 was Casey Matthews, who is really an inside linebacker. Smith was the fourth inside linebacker in 2014.

Now that Cole is gone, Graham has been promoted from his bench role to being a full-time starter. It's really up to Smith to replace Graham's rotational role, unless Travis Long somehow wins the job over him.

Graham played 323 snaps in 2013, which was 26.8% of the team's total defensive snaps. In 2014, that figure rose to 499 snaps, which was 43.1% of the total. I would think Smith's playing time will be closer to what Graham saw in 2013. Set the over/under at 290.5.

@Antimyth_tatted asks: Who are the 4 starting linebackers Week 1 barring injury?

Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin are locks to start on the outside. No question there.

The inside linebacker position is obviously much trickier. Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks should be the starters because they're the most talented players. Alonso and Kendricks also took first team reps together on the inside during the spring, so that could be a sign of things to come. However, DeMeco Ryans wasn't fully participating in spring practice so maybe things would have looked different if he was fully healthy. Ryans expects to be 100% recovered by the start of training camp, so we'll see how things look then.

It's hard to imagine Ryans being strictly used as a backup. Despite his declining physical skills, the team values his leadership both on and off the field. He's the captain of the defense and it shows. He's the guy who gets everyone in position prior to the snap. The Eagles don't seem to trust Kendricks with that same kind of responsibility. It was Casey Matthews, and not Kendricks, who made the calls last season when Ryans went down.

For now, I'll pencil in Alonso and Kendricks as the starters, but I expect some kind of rotation here with Ryans mixing in.

@AndrewTOU_THG asks: Which UDFAs have an actual shot to make the 53-man roster?

I plan on covering this topic in more detail in a separate post. For now, I'll say one of the offensive linemen has a pretty decent chance. In order of most likely to make the roster: Brett Boyko, Mike Coccia, Malcom Bunche. The undrafted free agent tight ends were pretty quiet during the spring, but Justin Tukes stood out a few times. There could be a fourth tight end spot to win now that James Casey is gone. I don't see any of the UDFA wide receivers making the final cut but Rasheed Bailey could land on the practice squad.

@jerrytheazzman asks: Handsomest assistant coach on the Eagles?

Considering this question comes from a Twitter account inspired by Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, I'm guessing I'm expected to say Coach Azz. So, it's Coach Azz.

@aerelorn asks: Is the Eagle the best bird?

Can you think of a better one?

NFL POWER RANKINGS, BIRD EDITION:

1) Eagles
2) Ravens
3) Falcons
4) Cardinals
5) Seahawks

In terms of bird coolness.