By Jack Ryan
As a public service, we decided to post a photo of Marcus Smith from Sunday’s first day of Eagles training camp.
Not because Smith is noteworthy as a player, though he certainly should be because he was chosen first by the Howie Boy Roseman-led brain trust in the 2014 NFL draft.
But because he was the missing man during the 2014 Eagles season — he couldn’t get on the field.
Now, the stakes have been raised on Mr. Smith.
For the third time in the past three years, outside linebacker Travis Long has torn his ACL, and will miss the upcoming season.
And it will be up to Smith to fill the role the Eagles’ expected Long to hold.
The injury to Long likely takes Smith off the roster bubble.
Some thought the idea of Smith not making the team was a crazy one, but after an epically bad rookie season, the Eagles were very open to the idea of cutting him, and likely would have.
Now, Smith goes from looking for a new job to being the team’s top backup at an already weak position.
Starters Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin are solid playmakers, but behind the two, the Eagles had just Long (an undrafted rookie), Bryan Braman (a special teams player), Brad Jones (who is an inside linebacker) and Smith.
The team was hoping Smith would step up, but with Vinny Curry also taking some reps at outside linebacker, were planning to get by without him.
The Eagles need Smith to get good — in a hurry..
Last season, playing behind Trent Cole, Graham gave the Eagles just over 300 productive snaps. Smith is now going to have to fill that role, and give the Eagles the same kind of pass rush Graham gave them last year.
If he can’t, the Eagles’ defense will be weakest at arguably the most important position in a 3-4 defense.
For what it’s worth, Eagles coaches have been complimentary of Smith through two days of camp. Head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis have never thrown compliments Smith’s way unless they were earned.