The700Level

Marcus Smith got kind of a raw deal with Eagles

Marcus Smith got kind of a raw deal with Eagles

As we reflect on the biggest draft busts in Eagles history, let’s remember Marcus Smith was almost unanimously considered a reach at the time he was selected No. 26 overall in 2014. Maybe the expectations typically bestowed upon a first-round pick were never entirely fair in the first place.

When we look back at his Eagles career, let’s not forget injuries necessitated Smith move from outside linebacker to inside linebacker just a few weeks into his rookie season, then back again. Nor did Chip Kelly see fit to put Smith on the field in the first place, let alone suit up for half the season. You mean to tell me there was nothing the NFL’s 28th-ranked defense could do with all that athleticism?

Let’s also keep in mind Smith actually showed signs of life under Jim Schwartz in 2016. Of the 61 defensive ends in 4-3 schemes with at least 100 pass-rush opportunities, Smith ranked 43rd in pass-rush productivity, according to Pro Football Focus. He was not completely useless when given an opportunity.

None of which is to say the Eagles made a mistake in releasing Smith on Thursday. Aside from not being very good, he was somebody who clearly didn’t “get it,” too. That was never more evident when he skipped voluntary OTAs this past spring, then explained, “I don’t feel like I missed anything.”

Only the fight for his job.

Smith essentially vacated his roster spot with that decision after managing only 23 tackles and 4.0 sacks in his first three seasons with the Eagles. Nobody needs to feel particularly sorry for a person whose actions suggested he didn’t really want to be here.

It’s not like Smith was ever destined for stardom, either. That much was apparent just watching highlights from his 16.0-sack senior season at Louisville, often coming off the edge untouched against the likes of Rutgers, UConn and Florida International. He was AAC Defensive Player of the Year, not ACC.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if things might’ve turned out slightly different were he not treated as the child Kelly never really wanted from the get-go. Having the chance to learn and play one position – or just to play at all early in his career – could’ve gone a long way. There’s little doubt Smith’s development was stunted at least somewhat by the previous coaching staff.

Perhaps things even would’ve been different for Smith has he simply not been taken in the first round. We’ll never know or understand how much the intense scrutiny contributed to his demeanor, which much like his play on the field, left a lot to be desired.

With all of that in mind, it’s not very difficult to imagine Smith catching on somewhere else and making an impact as a situational pass rusher this season. He’s only 25, packs sub-4.7 speed into a 6-3, 265-pound frame, and once Schwartz simplified the defense and turned him loose at defensive end last season, we saw a marked difference in his performance. Albeit, his performance was still replacement level, but that was a drastic improvement over non-existent.

Should Smith experience even a modicum of success in the NFL, maybe all of the what-ifs from his time with the Eagles will finally be taken seriously. Until then, I doubt too many people really care whether one of the greatest draft busts in franchise history may have got a bit of a raw deal.

Smith also could've been a bust regardless of where he was drafted or how coaches cultivated his talent. Regardless, the Eagles also set him up to fail.

Is the Philadelphia Eagles dog mask movement good or bad?

Is the Philadelphia Eagles dog mask movement good or bad?

I'll admit it. I thought -- maybe still do -- that the dog mask thing was bad.

See, I even tweeted about it for posterity: 

Some people agreed. Others said mean things about my mother. Many purchased dog masks from the Internet. Even more purchased t-shirts with dog masks on them. Television show hosts put on dog masks and filmed television show segments wearing dog masks.

Now, for the record, I don't really care at all about dog masks. So if Lane Johnson or Chris Long wants to wear a dog mask after a win, more power to him. And if an Eagles fan wants to act like a Cleveland Browns fan and wear a dog mask to a game, that's their own decision. I am not going to judge.

And then today I saw a dog mask on a billboard and I kind of liked it.  So I don't know. I am left still wondering: are dog masks good? Or are dog masks bad?

This billboard is near Pottstown, according to Reddit. There's a dog mask on it.

If the Eagles win on Sunday against the Vikings dog masks are great and if the Eagles lose dog masks are very bad. That's my take on dog masks.

Eagles are right. Nobody respects this defense, and nobody ever has

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USA Today

Eagles are right. Nobody respects this defense, and nobody ever has

“Nobody respected us as a defense. Gimme some respect right now...I’ll tell you what. I wanted to set a tone. We wanted to set a tone as a D. It’s not just me, it’s dem Defense, it’s my line, it’s Burgess, it’s Kearse, it’s all them Boys, Trott. We came and we brought it every doggone play.”

Those are the words of Mr. Brian Patrick Dawkins just moments after the last Philadelphia Eagles home NFC Championship Game. For those who are too young to remember, or perhaps have forgotten due to fits of hysteria because Andy Reid didn’t know how to run a two-minute drill a couple weeks later, the Eagles and their fans spent the week leading up to that game listening to a lot of national media telling us just how great some fella named Mike Vick was.

The commonly-held belief was that Vick and the Atlanta offense was going to come into The Linc and run circles around an Iggles defense that, many had forgotten, had been Super Bowl quality the entire 2004 season.

And here we are, nearly a decade and a half later, and history appears ready to repeat itself.

Sure, the characters have changed, but the theme remains the same; this Eagles defense, which has been number one against the run all season long, which is allowing just 13 PPG at home this year, and which just held the reigning MVP Matt Ryan and football’s best wide receiver Julio Jones to a paltry 10 points (all of which were aided by turnovers on the offensive side, mind you).... That defense is being told they are the underdogs (again), that their season will end on Sunday, and that they have not done enough to earn the respect of the national media.

And hey, this didn’t just start this week. Go back to Los Angeles on December 10th, when Wentz went down. All of a sudden, the Eagles were guaranteed to be a one-and-done come the postseason, even as the D clearly lifted the Birds to victory that Sunday against the ‘high-flying’ Rams offense. Sure, the assumption that the Iggles were done had more to do with Nick Foles than anything else, but it also tied back to the reality that as a whole, nobody outside of Philly saw this defense as Super Bowl quality.

Ask Brian Dawkins how he felt when Terrell Owens went down in 2004 and people started counting the Birds for dead.

But hey, for this defense, disrespect comes with the territory. This is a D built with rejects, cast-offs, and the underappreciated. They are led by a defensive coordinator, Jim Schwartz, who has been told by both the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills that he wasn’t good enough to work for them. Not exactly the most prestigious of franchises to be fired from, like being told you weren’t good enough of an actor to be on “Jersey Shore.”

Then there’s Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Ronald Darby, Tim Jernigan, and Nigel Bradham: all guys spurned by the teams that drafted them, yet all starting and contributing in a major fashion to the success of the best defense in the NFL.

There’s Jalen Mills, the 7th-round pick most people wanted to drive to the airport last season, who inserted himself into Philadelphia Eagles lore by knocking Julio Jones to the ground last Saturday.

There’s Mychal Kendricks, who has spent so much time on the trading block, he’d be better off buying, and who’s snap counts have been less consistent than the President’s twitter feed.

There’s Vinny Curry, who had to fight for playing time for the team he grew up rooting for.

There’s Beau Allen, another 7th-round pick who has already had a tenure longer than Bennie Logan, a guy at the same position drafted four-rounds earlier.

There’s Dannell Ellerbe, an undrafted linebacker turned Super Bowl champion who was out of the league just a few weeks ago, now starting in the middle for the NFC East Champs.

There’s Patrick Robinson; a former first-round bust who the Eagles nearly cut in training camp, and yet reinvented himself as one of the top slot corners in the league and has led this D in interceptions.

There’s Chris Long, the dog-mask-wearer himself, a former second-overall pick who had to be picked off the NFL free agency scrap heap this summer, showing he can still produce at age 32.

Even arguably their best player, Fletcher Cox, had to watch as a nose tackle was valued, and drafted, right before him back in 2012.

And I write ‘arguably’ next to Cox because I, for one, am done underappreciating and devaluing the contributions and play of Brandon Graham. There’s no one in recent Philadelphia sports history that has been more disrespected than he. Drafted by Andy Reid at a spot most experts considered a reach, the guy many Birds fans knew as “Not Earl Thomas” was nearly traded by Chip Kelly. He’s come back from an ACL injury, he’s switched from defensive end to linebacker to defensive end again, and he now leads a team one win away from the Super Bowl in sacks and tackles for a loss. And BTW, he had as many tackles-for-a-loss this season as Aaron Donald, and more than guys like Demarcus Lawrence, Khalil Mack, and Bobby Wagner.

From "overreach" to "first round bust" to “trade bait,” and now arguably the best player on what could potentially be a Super Bowl defense. And yet still not getting the respect he deserves.

Is there anything more Philly than that?