NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - INSIDE SLANT
When the Philadelphia Eagles selected linebacker Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick in the NFL Draft in May, they didn't expect him to step right in and start.
They already had two veteran outside 'backers in Trent Cole and Connor Barwin. Their hope was that Smith would contribute this season as a pass-rush specialist, and then replace the 32-year-old Cole next season when Cole is another year older and his salary cap number soars from $6.6 million to $11 million.
But Smith has essentially given them nothing this season. He has played 74 snaps the entire year and hasn't even been good enough to earn regular time on special teams. Head coach Chip Kelly said Smith hasn't been consistent enough in practice to earn playing time on Sundays.
In his defense, Smith has been shuffled around because of injuries to other linebackers. He started outside and then moved inside and now is back outside, but still also is backing up inside.
Still, Smith has not shown enough in practice either inside or outside to earn regular playing time. The Eagles will play their final game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants. It's a meaningless game since both the 9-6 Eagles and 6-9 Giants have been eliminated from playoff consideration. Yet Smith still isn't expected to play much, if at all.
"The difficulty of moving from outside to inside (linebacker) and then trying to retrain your eyes and then now back outside, there's a reason for the inconsistency," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Also, and some of it is us moving him from in and out and out and in. The other part of it is he just has to settle in and play the hand he's deal and make the most of it."
Even without any contribution from Smith, the Eagles have been very good at rushing the passer this season. They head into Sunday's game ranked second in the league in sacks with 49.
The problem is, they could have used that first-round pick to address the cornerback position, which has been a real problem for the Eagles this season. And because he hasn't been on the field much, Davis and Kelly don't really know what they have in Smith or whether he is capable of replacing Cole.
"I know how people feel," Smith said. "You have a first-rounder taken at 26th overall, you expect him to play right away. Well, when I came in, I had actual guys who have played the position and guys I can learn from, not essentially get thrown into the fire. I just feel it benefitted me because I didn't have to play right away."
SERIES HISTORY: 160th regular-season meeting. Giants lead series, 82-75-2. The Eagles have won two of the last three meetings, including a 27-0 win over the Giants in Week 6. LeSean McCoy rushed for 149 yards in that game. The Eagles defense sacked Eli Manning six times and held the Giants to 12 first downs.
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Eagles aren't likely to re-sign Mark Sanchez, who will become a free agent after the season. But Chip Kelly needs to make a fairly quick decision on his other quarterback, Nick Foles, so that he can determine whether they need to pursue a quarterback in free agency and/or the NFL Draft.
Foles led the league in passing last season, but didn't play very well this season in eight starts before fracturing his collarbone. He has not been cleared to play in Sunday's final regular-season game against the Giants.
"I don't think you can look back on it and say this clouds this and this doesn't cloud, because that's reality of it: He got hurt," Kelly said. "We've got to make decisions moving forward in terms of what we're going to do. ...
"It doesn't matter if I (got enough of a look.) The reality is the reality. So I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games', and certain times we're going to have to make decisions. We're going to make it based on what we have. We don't have any control over the injury."
--Despite not reaching the playoffs, the Eagles had five players make the Pro Bowl: left tackle Jason Peters, running back LeSean McCoy, center Jason Kelce, linebacker Connor Barwin and return specialist Darren Sproles. Barwin, Sproles and Kelce also will be making their first Pro Bowl appearances. Five other players were selected as alternates: kicker Cody Parkey (first alternate), guard Evan Mathis (second), special teams ace Chris Maragos (second), wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (third) and defensive end Fletcher Cox (sixth).
--Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Eagles last year after missing the previous season with a torn ACL, has had the best season of his career, catching 82 passes for 1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns. While he could be one of the top free-agent wide receivers on the market in March, he is hoping to re-sign with the Eagles. "Why wouldn't I want to be here?" he said. "This is the place that drafted me and I want to end my career here. If we can get something worked out when the time is right, that's what will happen."
BY THE NUMBERS: 3.54 - LeSean McCoy's yards-per-carry average on second down this season. Last year, he averaged 5.68.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have one mindset, and we've had it every week. We're going to win a ballgame. They all count. They all matter. If we're playing a football game in New York, we're going up there and they're going to get our absolute best with all the emotion that we have. It's isn't about what comes after it. It's about us going in there and trying to get our 10th win." - Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis on whether his players will be emotionally up for Sunday's game against the Giants even though they have been eliminated from playoff consideration
NFL Team Report - Philadelphia Eagles - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2015 Pro Bowl selections from 2014 season:
Game will be played January 25, 2015 in Glendale, Ariz., site of the Super Bowl. Hall of Fame receivers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin will serve as captains and select teams from this list, drafting alternately until all players are taken. Here are players taken by team (number of players after team; number of Pro Bowls after name):
Connor Barwin, Outside Linebacker, 1
Jason Kelce, Center, 1
LeSean McCoy, Running Back, 3
Jason Peters, Tackle, 7
Darren Sproles, Return Specialist, 1
--Quarterback: Tom Brady, Patriots; Andrew Luck, Colts; Peyton Manning, Broncos; Aaron Rodgers, Packers; Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers; Tony Romo, Cowboys.
--Running back: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers; Jamaal Charles, Chiefs; Arian Foster, Texans; Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks; LeSean McCoy, Eagles; DeMarco Murray, Cowboys.
--Wide receiver: Antonio Brown, Steelers; Dez Bryant, Cowboys; A.J. Green, Bengals; T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Calvin Johnson, Lions; Julio Jones, Falcons; Jordy Nelson, Packers; Demaryius Thomas, Broncos.
--Tight end: Jimmy Graham, Saints; Rob Gronkowski, Patriots; Greg Olsen, Panthers; Julius Thomas, Broncos.
--Fullback: John Kuhn, Packers; Marcel Reece, Raiders.
--Tackles: Ryan Clady, Broncos; Jason Peters, Eagles; Tyron Smith, Cowboys; Joe Staley, 49ers; Joe Thomas, Browns; Trent Williams, Redskins.
--Guard: Jahri Evans, Saints; Mike Iupati, 49ers; Kyle Long, Bears; Zack Martin, Cowboys; Josh Sitton, Packers; Marshal Yanda, Ravens.
--Center: Travis Frederick, Cowboys; Jason Kelce, Eagles; Nick Mangold, Jets; Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers.
--Defensive end: Calais Campbell, Cardinals; Robert Quinn, Rams; Cameron Wake, Dolphins; DeMarcus Ware, Broncos; J.J. Watt, Texans; Mario Williams, Bills.
--Interior linemen: Marcell Dareus, Bills; Aaron Donald, Rams; Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers; Dontari Poe, Chiefs; Ndamukong Suh, Lions; Kyle Williams, Bills.
--Outside linebacker: Connor Barwin, Eagles; Elvis Dumervil, Ravens; Tamba Hali, Chiefs; Justin Houston, Chiefs; Clay Matthews, Packers; Von Miller, Broncos.
--Inside linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Panthers; C.J. Mosley, Ravens; Lawrence, Timmons, Steelers; Bobby Wagner, Seahawks.
--Cornerback: Vontae Davis, Colts; Brent Grimes, Dolphins; Joe Haden, Browns; Chris Harris, Broncos; Patrick Peterson, Cardinals; Darrelle Revis, Patriots; Richard Sherman, Seahawks; Aqib Talib, Broncos.
--Free safety: Tashaun Gipson, Browns; Glover Quin, Lions; Earl Thomas, Seahawks; Eric Weddle, Chargers.
--Strong safety: Kam Chancellor, Seahawks; T.J. Ward, Broncos.
--Punter: Kevin Huber, Bengals; Pat McAfee, Colts.
--Placekicker: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots; Adam Vinatieri, Colts.
--Return specialist: Devin Hester, Falcons; Darren Sproles, Eagles.
--Special teamer: Justin Bethel, Cardinals; Matthew Slater, Patriots.
--QB Nick Foles will miss his eighth straight game. He had his healing collarbone examined Monday, but the fracture still hadn't fully healed.
--LB Trent Cole will miss his second straight game after having surgery to repair a fractured hand. LB Brandon Graham will make his second straight start and just the 14th of his career.
--TE Zach Ertz played a season-high 70 snaps last week against the Redskins, catching a franchise-record 15 passes for 115 yards.
--PK Cody Parkey still is listed on the injury report with a groin issue. He missed two field-goal attempts last week, but said his groin is not bothering him. He will play this week against the Giants.
GAME PLAN: The Giants have allowed a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry this season. In the first meeting, LeSean McCoy rushed for 149 yards as the Giants stayed in their nickel defense almost the entire game. The Eagles are expected to run the ball a lot again Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Eagles cornerbacks vs. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.: The Giants' rookie has 79 catches and 11 TDs. The Eagles have given up the second most pass plays of 30 yards or more.
--Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Giants DRE Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul is once again playing at a Pro Bowl level. He leads the Giants in sacks with 10.5. Peters still is one of the league's best left tackle, but has been up and down this season.
--Eagles RB LeSean McCoy vs. Giants MLB Jameel McClain. McCoy rushed for 149 yards in the first meeting with the Giants. McClain anchors a defense that is giving up a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun