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.”

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

NFL Notes: J.J. Watt could miss rest of season with back injury

HOUSTON -- A person familiar with J.J. Watt's condition says he has re-injured his back and the Houston Texans expect him to be out until at least December, and possibly the entire season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't confirmed the injury.

Watt missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He returned started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

It's unclear if the injury will require surgery.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, didn't practice on Monday, but coach Bill O'Brien said then he was just getting a day off.

NFL.com first reported the news (see full story).
 
Panthers: Team signs S Griffin, DT Love
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers have signed safety Michael Griffin and defensive tackle Kyle Love to one-year contracts.

To make room on the roster, the Panthers waived safety Marcus Ball and placed defensive end Ryan Delaire on injured reserve Tuesday with a knee injury.

A former first-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot, 215-pound Griffin was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2010. He spent nine seasons with Tennessee before signing with Minnesota. However, he was waived by the Vikings on Sept. 7.

Griffin has played in 141 career regular season games with 133 starts, registering 607 tackles, seven sacks, 25 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.

Love played in 15 regular season games with two starts and registered 19 tackles, including three sacks last season for Carolina.

NFL: Three legislature seats filled for possible Vegas stadium vote
RENO, Nev. -- Three people whose votes could determine whether a nearly $2 billion stadium is built to lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas were appointed Tuesday to vacant seats in the Nevada Legislature.

The three northern Nevada residents, including a former Stanford football player, will join other state lawmakers for a special session the governor is expected to convene next month to consider raising hotel room taxes in the Las Vegas area to help finance a 65,000-seat, domed stadium that could be home to the NFL team.

The current informal proposal on the table would tax only hotel guests in Las Vegas and Clark County, with no direct impact on Washoe County, Reno or Sparks. But critics fear that in the event of revenue shortfalls, the burden could fall to all Clark County taxpayers or, potentially, taxpayers statewide

"I am a fan and support football as a sport," said ex-Stanford linebacker Dominic Brunetti, a Republican commercial real estate broker.

"And as a business, I respect the NFL," he said. "But only if it is fair to those communities and families it influences and impacts through oftentimes very, very complicated deal structures."

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

2017 NFL draft prospect watch: Offensive help for Eagles

It almost seems futile to do a prospect watch piece after the Eagles moved to 3-0 by demolishing a Super Bowl contender.

I know you've all bought your tickets to Houston already, but even after the Eagles win the Super Bowl this year, they'll still need to draft a player or two come April.

Here's a look at six offensive prospects that could help the Eagles defend their title:

Dalvin Cook, Florida State, junior, RB, (5-11/213)
Cook finally had a breakout game this weekend with 267 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns in Florida State's 55-35 win over South Florida. Defenses have really been keying in on Cook with a redshirt freshman quarterback under center for the Seminoles. Besides LSU's Leonard Fournette, Cook may be the best running back prospect in the draft.

Jalen Hurd, Tennessee, junior, RB, (6-4/240)
Hurd had a solid weekend, running for 95 yards on 26 carries in Tennessee's first win over Florida in 12 years. Hurd is by far the tallest running back I've ever profiled. He's built like a wide receiver. Considering his size, he does a good job of not running high and he's quicker than his size would lead you to believe. He's able to turn the corner and he's tough to tackle low. He's a physical runner but it doesn't translate well into his pass protection.

Roderick Johnson, Florida State, junior, OT, (6-7/311)
Johnson was a disaster in the first half of Florida State's opener against Ole Miss, but he's recovered nicely. He's excellent in the run game, helping pave the way for Cook's huge game against USF. His struggles in pass protection are from technical issues. He needs to get his hands on opponents quicker. When he does that, he can swallow defensive lineman with his massive frame and long arms.

Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, senior, OT, (6-7/310)
The Philly native and Penn Charter grad is one of the top three tackles in the draft. A former basketball player, McGlinchey — who people say is closer to 6-foot-9 — moves like a tight end. He dominated in Notre Dame's loss to Duke. Against Michigan State, he got fooled on a couple stunts, but looked strong overall. How cool of a story would it be for a Philly kid to get drafted by the Eagles in Philadelphia? That scenario is far from impossible. Fun fact: McGlinchey is the cousin of Atlanta Falcons quarterback and fellow Penn Charter grad Matt Ryan.

James Washington, Oklahoma State, junior, WR, (6-1/201)
Washington had six catches for 89 yards in a loss to Baylor, but he popped up on my radar after a nine-catch, 296-yard (no, that's not a typo) performance against Pitt a couple weeks back. The opposite of Hurd, Washington is a receiver built like a running back, generously listed at 6-foot-1. He's explosive and quick out of his breaks. He also does well on 50-50 balls, outmuscling smaller defensive backs. I'd like to see a little more consistency from him, though. His 40 time will be an interesting measuring stick when the combine comes around.

James Quick, Louisville, senior, WR, (6-1/180)
Against Marshall last weekend, Quick caught his second pass of over 70 yards this season and finished with four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. When your quarterback is the best and most exciting player in college football, it's easy to get overshadowed. But Quick has been the favorite target of Heisman hopeful Lamar Jackson, leading Louisville in catches (16), yards (360) and receiving touchdowns (three). He's quick in and out of his breaks and is a decent route runner with decent hands. Quick is another player we'll learn more about through the combine process when he's not catching balls from Jackson.

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