New Eagle Marcus Smith surprised to go in 1st round

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New Eagle Marcus Smith surprised to go in 1st round

Virtually nobody had Marcus Smith going in the first round. Nobody except the Eagles.

And Smith thinks he knows why.

“Maybe because of my junior film,” Smith said after the Eagles selected him with the 26th pick in the NFL draft (see story).

“Maybe they thought this was just a one-year thing -- ‘He busted on the scene.’ Maybe because I didn't do well my junior year, only had four sacks.

“A lot of people kind of brushed me to the side.”

You’re not the only one surprised the Eagles took Smith in the first round.

He was, too.

"I had a feeling I would [go in the first round], but I didn't know exactly,” the newest Eagle said from Louisville late Thursday night. “I was looking at maybe early second, maybe even the third round.”

Smith (see bio), whose 14½ sacks as a senior ranked second in NCAA Division I, wasn’t projected anywhere nearly as high as the top two pass-rushing outside linebackers, Khalil Mack of Buffalo, who went fifth to the Raiders, and Anthony Barr of UCLA, who went No. 9 to the Vikings.

But Smith said he knows he can be the same kind of player in the NFL as Mack and Barr.

"I'm pretty much the same as those guys,” he said. “I can rush the passer and drop into coverage. I feel like I'm very athletic. I feel like I could have gone where those guys went as far as my talent goes, but I know how the draft goes. All you've got to do is get one team to love you, and I know the Eagles will take care of me.

“Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr are great players. I watched them on film a lot and some things they do I tried to take from them so I could add them to my game.”

Smith, who just turned 22 on March 31, played all over the defense at Louisville but was mainly a defensive end.

With the Eagles, he’ll play outside rush linebacker in Billy Davis’s 3-4 scheme.

The Eagles ranked 20th in the NFL with 32 sacks last year, 15 of which came in three games.

Connor Barwin and Trent Cole are currently penciled in as the starting outside linebackers, but Smith said he expects to contribute right away. Even though he’s still new to the position and really still new to playing defense.

"I know for a fact they want me to rush and go get the quarterback,” Smith said late Thursday night. “I can be a double-digit sack guy. Once I get into camp and get rolling and get into the groove, I really believe I can be that guy. I really do."

Smith, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, began his college career as a quarterback, but that didn’t last very long.

"There were two seniors in front of me my freshman year and I wasn't getting a lot of reps and I wasn't doing too well throwing the ball,” he said.

“Coach [Charlie] Strong asked if I wanted to play defense, and I said I'll do whatever it takes to get on the field. We were in two-a-days, and the second practice that day he put me on defense and I never went back.”

That could help explain why Smith didn’t really make an impact early in his college career.

But Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said Smith’s upside is one of the things that was appealing to the Eagles, and Smith said he feels like he still has a ton of improvement to make.

"It took me a year to settle in coming from quarterback to linebacker because I had to get the mentality of a defensive player, knocking people off on that side of the ball,” he said.

“I've gotten better each year and this year had an outbreak and feel like I can carry everything I did this year into the NFL. I want to make an impact right away and I know the coaches in Philly can get me ready for this season coming up.”

Smith is the first linebacker the Eagles have drafted in the first round in 35 years, since Jerry Robinson out of UCLA in 1979.

He said he has plenty of experience dropping back in coverage, something outside linebackers need to do in Davis’s scheme.

“I believe they dropped me about 50-50,” he said. “Maybe not as much my junior year but last year they dropped me more. Going into the middle of the season I started rushing a lot more because they wanted somebody to get to the quarterback, but I was doing both.

“I've gotten better each year and this year had an outbreak and feel like I can carry everything I did this year into the NFL. I want to make an impact right away.

"I think I have not reached my full potential yet. I continually trying to work every day. I know I have a lot of stuff to polish up and a lot of stuff I have to work on. I think once I get around the right people an around the league I'll be the great player that I want to be.”

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.

NFL Notes: Saints DT Nick Fairley to miss 2017 season with heart condition

NFL Notes: Saints DT Nick Fairley to miss 2017 season with heart condition

METAIRIE, La. -- Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is coming off one of his best NFL seasons and it might have been his last.

At the very least, he won't be playing for New Orleans in 2017.

General manager Mickey Loomis said Monday that Fairley has been placed on the team's reserve list with a non-football illness designation, meaning the 2016 starter is out for this season.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Fairley had a career-best 6 sacks for the Saints last season, after which he signed a four-year extension worth up to $28 million.

However, symptoms related to an enlarged heart caused Fairley to miss offseason practices and minicamp while he saw specialists to determine whether playing football would be an undue health risk.

Saints coach Sean Payton has said at least one specialist recommended that the 29-year-old Fairley -- a former Auburn star and 2011 first-round draft pick by Detroit -- give up football. Payton also had mentioned that he wanted to be sure Fairley wouldn't return unless he was confident enough in his health to play to his full potential.

"The most important thing right now in our mind is his well-being," Payton said earlier this month, when Fairley's status for this season was still in doubt.

"To play this game, there's a little bit of mental toughness involved, obviously. I want to make sure, if in fact he's playing it, again that he's playing with full confidence that he's healthy to play and that nothing severe would come of him playing."

Vikings: Floyd sentenced to 1 day in jail
An Arizona judge has ordered Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd to serve one day in jail for failing alcohol tests that he blames on a type of fermented tea.

Floyd and his lawyer did not attend the Scottsdale City Court hearing and had a teleconference with Judge Statia Hendrix.

The hearing was meant to give Floyd the chance to make his case regarding the failed alcohol tests and another one he missed earlier this month, which stemmed from a 2016 drunken driving arrest where Scottsdale police say they found him passed out behind the wheel.

Vikings officials say they encouraged Floyd to drink a fermented tea called kombucha.

Hendrix ordered Floyd start his additional jail time Monday evening in Phoenix before concluding his final five days of house arrest.

Panthers: Newton throws for 1st time since shoulder surgery
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton is throwing again.

The Panthers said on Twitter on Monday the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2015 threw his first passes since surgery in March for a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Newton is on schedule to participate in the team's training camp in July and barring setbacks should be ready for the start of the season.

The Panthers released a short black-and-white video of Newton throwing in the team's locker room.

Newton turned down interview requests through the team's public relations staff. He said on the team's website that while he's not 100 percent it felt "cool" to be throwing for the first time in six months.

Packers: Former RB Ahman Green charged with child abuse
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Former Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green was charged Monday with felony child abuse after his 15-year-old daughter told police he punched her in the face.

Green, 40, is also charged with disorderly conduct in the incident late Sunday in the Green Bay suburb of Ledgeview.

According to a criminal complaint, Green's daughter told police that he struck her in the face in a dispute over getting her to do the dishes. She also said he threw her to the ground and against kitchen cabinets.

According to the complaint, Green told deputies he "may have" thrown his daughter to the ground and against cabinets. He said he slapped her in the head and believed he may have hit her glasses, causing a swollen eye, according to the complaint.

A court commissioner ordered Green's release Monday on a $2,500 signature bond after ordering him to have no contact with his daughter or others who may have witnessed the incident.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports Green's next court appearance was set for July 11, to give him time to hire an attorney. Green appeared in court via teleconference from the Brown County Jail. Lee Schuchart, a public defender representing Green at Monday's appearance, called the incident "a constitutional issue" involving "parental rights."

Lammi Sports Management, which has handled Green's appearances, had no immediate comment.

Green was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2014. He is the team's all-time leading rusher and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Green starred at Nebraska, then spent the first two seasons of his 12-year NFL career in Seattle. He played for Houston in 2007-08, but spent most of his career in Green Bay, his last season coming in 2009.