By Michael Donovan
If you’re an Eagles fan and you have lost track of linebacker Marcus Smith’s progress in his second season, join the club.
The Birds’ No. 1 draft pick in 2014 was a missing man last season, and he has barely made a ripple this year.
That may change this Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Because starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin has been unable to practice this week due to a quad injury, Smith could be in line to start opposite Brandon Graham and see the most playing time of his career since being chosen in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
“I feel really good,” Smith said following Wednesday’s practice at the NovaCare Complex. “I’ve been playing the last couple of games, they’ve been rotating me in and I’ve been getting reps. I’m already prepared and ready to play the position.
“I can play both positions if need be in the game, just in case something happens to where he can’t go.”
Smith has the albatross of searching for his first NFL tackle off his back after recording one back in Week 5 against the New Orleans Saints.
On Sunday against the Dolphins, Smith played in just five snaps on defense, something that not only has been fairly indicative of his playing time throughout his brief career, but is also something he laments.
“It’s tough to get into the flow of the game,” Smith admitted. “You’ve gotta try to make the best you can with what you get. You get better in practice every day. That’s how you get better. In the game, it’s tough to get into the flow of the game, but once you’re in there, you’re in there.”
Despite Smith’s next tackle being only the second of his career, the Louisville product is fired up about the possibility of seeing even more playing time in Week 11.
“I’m in a great place right now,” Smith said. “I’m in a high place right now. I think that I’m just very appreciative of what I am getting. I”m very humble and once i get the opportunity to get more reps, you’ll see more plays.”
Even though Smith might be beaming with confidence, his level of play has yet to match it. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly says he’s been encouraged by Smith’s progress this season.
“I think Marcus has come along,” Kelly said Wednesday. “Obviously, our two premier starting, outside linebackers are Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Brandon has played well of late; Connor has been at work for us. But we’re confident that if Connor can’t go, then Marcus can fill in fine.”