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Did Marcus Smith simply fly under everyone’s radar?

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The Redskins have a 26-year-old former 1st round draft pick on the defense that most Redskins fans probably don’t know about

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

I was looking through the Redskins player list while working on a salary cap article last week, and I spotted a name — Marcus Smith.

Hmmm...

Was this some young kid signed on a futures contract? The name wasn’t ringing a bell, and I didn’t remember him playing for the Redskins before.

The problem was that he’s slated to make $805,000 with the Redskins this season. That’s no futures contract.

Smith?

I Googled his name, saw the first search return, and remembered that in the middle of the injury crisis last year the Redskins had signed a player, and everyone from Bleeding Green Nation came over to laugh at us for the depths to which we’d fallen.

It occurred to me that other Hogs Haven readers might have overlooked or forgotten that Marcus Smith is a Redskins player. He is only 26 years old, and was drafted into the NFL in 2014, so a lot of people might remember him from his days at Louisville and with our division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.

For those with hazier memories, like me, I thought I’d take a chronological trip through Smith’s history via draft profiles and articles that document some of the highlights and lowlights of his career, and see how he ended up on the roster of the Washington Redskins.

A promising draft prospect

I started with a search of the Hogs Haven archives from the ‘14 draft profiles. What we published on Marcus Smith was fairly brief.

Smith has a good first move off the line and does not quit until the whistle blows. He is wide-bodied and strong and had a very productive senior season with 14.5 sacks. His athleticism would allow him to fit in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. He has acute field awareness and will reach up to bat balls down when he doesn’t get to the quarterback in time. He is also a very solid tackler and instinctively tries to strip the ball in the process.

Memphis v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

He will need to focus on developing his pass rushing repertoire and get more experience in pass coverage if he ends up on a 3-4 team.

His attitude and voracity on the field is contagious... and he will be a valuable addition to an NFL defense as he develops.

The Hogs Haven profile had Smith projected for the 3rd or 4th round, and listed the Redskins as one of the four “best fits” for the player.

Bleeding Green...

It may be coincidence or fate, but the most complete draft profile I found on Marcus Smith was published on Bleeding Green Nation in early February of 2014. The BGN piece was higher on Smith, listing him as a mid-to-late second round pick, but that projection was a far cry from the eventual decision made by the Eagles to draft him 26th overall in the first round.

This year’s draft is loaded with pass rushers, but the major talents are obviously in the first two rounds. While South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Auburn’s Dee Ford and BYU’s Kevin Van Noy have gained the most press, Louisville’s Marcus Smith is a talented player that could likely be had in the second round.

South Florida v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In 13 games as a junior, Smith collected 29 tackles (eight for loss), four sacks, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed and an interception. He was first on the defensive line in tackles and second on the team in sacks. As a senior, Smith absolutely blew up. In 2013, Smith collected career highs with 42 tackles (18.5 for loss), 14.5 sacks (second in the nation), four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three batted balls. He was a third-team AP All-American, AAC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-AAC.

Yahoo! Sports contributor Rob Hoff said the following about Smith’s performance at the Senior Bowl practices:

None of the potential tweeners of 4-3 college defensive ends at the Senior Bowl was more convincing in their ability to drop back into pass coverage than Marcus Smith of Louisville. Whether he was step-for-step down the seam 20 yards downfield with a tight end or sliding out into the flats to cover a running back on a swing pass, Smith showed the best agility among outside LB converts in his change of direction and play recognition.

SB Nation’s own Dan Kadar also noted Smith’s ability in coverage at the all-star game:

Switching from defensive end to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, Smith looked natural in coverage.

Smith is a natural athlete with solid size at over 6-foot-3 (measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6’3 1/2) and 258-pounds. He has an NFL body with long arms (80 1/4 inch wingspan) and a 4.7 forty-time speed (according to Scout.com). On tape, he shows a good ability to wrap up on tackles and clear speed off the edge. He is the type of player that can line up pretty much anywhere in the front seven (outside of nose tackle in a 3-4) and be successful.

He is not much of a hand technician yet and lacks obvious strength. That does not mean he can’t win with either at this moment, it is just that he doesn’t consistently win with those approaches. He prefers to run by guys as oppose to engage and shed. In coverage, Smith seems to lose his man at times. He is not great in coverage on tape, but he can do it.

Another issue for Smith is that while he played four seasons, his only major year came as a senior. In 2013, he had five games of multiple sacks and five without any quarterback take downs. He got his sacks in bunches which may have been due to lining up against a poor player at left tackle or a bad offensive line.

Smith does have the one-hit wonder feel, but luckily has experience as well.

The BGN writer closed out the article by suggesting that the Eagles might be interested in Smith at the 54th pick in the draft.

Almost immediately after the draft, Eagles fans were wondering what Chip Kelly was doing.

When the Eagles used their first round pick on Marcus Smith, the Louisville OLB who had 14.5 sacks last year, a lot of reporters made the obvious connection. Starting right OLB Trent Cole is a 32-year-old converted 4-3 DE, and his salary cap number jumps from $6.6 million this year to $11.6 million in 2015. The Eagles must be planning to train Smith for a year behind Cole at the right OLB position and have him take over next year.

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

But nothing is that obvious with this Eagles team.

The biggest surprise in the first week of OTAs was that Smith has been training exclusively for Connor Barwin’s position at the left OLB.

Kelly said he wanted Marcus Smith because he’s a converted quarterback -- i.e. he reads formations well and understands the big picture -- and has a lot of potential for growth.

“He’s a tough, hard‑nosed football player. A little bit new to the position. Maybe a similar situation to Lane [Johnson] in terms of you’re getting a guy that is a huge upside because he hasn’t played the position that long. They played multiple defenses there.”

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The cracks were already showing for Chip Kelly in 2014, as he struggled to deal with the difference between being a college Head Coach, where recruiting is king, and life in the NFL, where every draft pick is scrutinized and questioned.

We drafted [pass-rusher] Marcus Smith in the first round, and Jordan Matthews in the second round. Then you listen to people around here that say, ‘Well, we don’t like their draft. If they had taken Matthews first and Smith second, we would give them an A.’ Who cares who went one and who went two? It’s almost like there’s a lot of scrutiny on Marcus Smith because he went one, but Jordan gets a pass because he fell to the second round. If you ask both those individuals, they have the same goals and aspirations and they’re training exactly the same way. It’s just how people perceive things, and I think a lot of that has to do with the hype.”

You don’t have to read too much between the lines to see that there was a lot of criticism of the Smith pick. Analysts had him in the second round or later, and Kelly and the Eagles were largely roasted for picking him at #26.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Apparently the analysts were right that Smith was over-drafted. They were probably wrong about him being a second round talent. Marcus Smith had a brutal rookie season. He looked a lot more like a Saturday draft pick or UDFA.

Call it a rocky first season in the NFL, and that’s an understatement. Marcus Smith couldn’t gain a bit of traction after the Eagles selected him in the first round of last year’s draft. He played 68 snaps on defense. Total. Out of 1,158 snaps available. That’s 6 percent of the snaps. That’s no footing.

So where is Smith in his development? It’s hard to say, honestly. His time on the field during the spring was compromised by a groin injury that seemed healed enough at the end of the mandatory minicamp that he was on the field, taking reps. He took a lot of reps, all of them at the outside linebacker position after shuttling back and forth between outside and inside and then outside again as a rookie. Smith has gained weight and is a stronger player physically than he was a year ago, all good things.

Smith has to be a factor right away in August, when training camp begins. There is no sense that he’s a sure thing for the third linebacker job, or even a roster spot. The coaching staff wants competition across the board and at the outside linebacker position Smith has to beat out Travis Long, Bryan Braman and Brad Jones, to name three players. It’s not a given. Nothing is. Head coach Chip Kelly wants to see his players on the field for training sessions and he wants them smart and physical and committed to being the most productive they can be.

So Smith has a tall order. He’s got to bring it in the training sessions and then he has to show up big time in the preseason games. He has to be physical and play the game with a purpose.

Smith has to prove he can contribute in his second season. Sixty-eight snaps isn’t going to cut it in Year 2.

The challenge was there for Smith in his sophomore season. He responded by securing 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 13 games. Ooof.

The good news (sort of) is that he nearly doubled his production in 2016, racking up 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 16 games.

The Eagles had seen enough. The 26th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft was released by the Eagles after just 3 seasons. He had been active for 37 games and amassed 23 tackles and 4 sacks.

The content of the next article, published in 2017, is pretty easy to predict.

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.

Biggest. Draft Bust. In Eagles History.

Wow.

That’s a big statement.

Philadelphia Eagles Rookie Minicamp Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

But even in an article titled, “Marcus Smith got kind of a raw deal with Eagles” where the author tried to act as an apologist for Smith and discuss mitigating factors (having to play for Chip Kelly), the writer couldn’t quite pull it off, saying:

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.

The writer did manage to put Smith’s failure into the context of an Eagles staff who may have failed him:

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.

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. Regardless, the Eagles also set him up to fail.

Bleeding Sea Dark Blue, Sea Gray, Sea White and Sea Light Green...

In 2017, Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks decided that Marcus Smith might provide the situational pass rush that would make him an asset to the roster. They signed him to a one-year deal. At the end of the season, they re-signed him for 2018, then did an about-face and released him in August, in the midst of the pre-season.

Here’s the post mortem on that move:

Another NFL team terminated their Marcus Smith experiment.

The Seattle Seahawks cut the defensive end on Friday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. The team later made the announcement official.

Smith had missed practice the past few days while dealing with coach Pete Carroll termed a family issue.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Smith spent the 2017 season in Seattle, compiling 15 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 14 games.

Smith signed a one-year deal in Seattle last offseason and re-upped with the Seahawks in March.

With all the changes along the Seahawks defensive line, Smith had a chance to earn solid rotational minutes. Alas, he never stood out during training camp.

The once surprise first-round pick is once again a free agent.

So, after being drafted in the first round by the Eagles, after four rocky years and two teams, Marcus Smith was back on the street for “personal reasons”.

Reports surfaced that Smith was questioning his own commitment to the game and considering retirement when the Seahawks released him.

Last Friday, the Seahawks pulled an odd switch-a-roo when they signed outside linebacker Erik Walden but also terminated the contract of defensive end Marcus Smith who the team had just re-signed during the offseason with the hope of him being apart of their plan to replace Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Despite a few injuries during training camp, Smith seem poised to be among their options to generate pass rush in 2018; instead, he was cut prior to preseason game number two without any real explanation. But, head coach Pete Carroll made sure to note the reasoning had nothing to do with injury.

Now, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the reasoning stemmed from Smith contemplating retirement. Per the report, the former Eagles first round pick wasn’t fully committed to playing in 2018 and is leaning towards calling it career after just four seasons in the NFL. It’s unclear if these decisions are affected by whatever family issues Smith had to address last Wednesday and Thursday but Carroll noted on Wednesday he was given time off to deal with a personal matter for his family.

So, in August, 2018 — just seven months ago — Marcus Smith was questioning his commitment to football and contemplating retirement.

ESPN The Party - Arrivals Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN

Somehow, he ended up on the Redskins roster before the 2018 season was finished.

Less than 24 hours after giving up 28 points in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins have decided to sign a free agent in hopes that he will bolster their defense.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Redskins have decided to sign linebacker Marcus Smith II. The fifth-year linebacker was most recently with the Seattle Seahawks, but was cut earlier this year on August 17.

This move comes on the heels of Cassanova McKinzys injury — when the first-year linebacker suffered a torn pectoral on Thanksgiving during the Redskins’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Washington has had to battle through a plethora of injuries this season, and their linebacking corps has definitely been thin at times.

When you get to the point that you’re looking for a December replacement for Cassonova McKinzy, I guess it’s a bit like looking for loose change under the sofa cushions in the hopes of being able to buy a 7-11 hot dog for lunch — you take what you can get.

Smith was active for two games in December, but didn’t record any stats in the box scores.

Is there a place for Marcus Smith on the 2019 Redskins?

  • Ryan Kerrigan
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Cassanova McKinzy
  • Marcus Smith
  • Marquis Flowers

This is a very thin OLB depth chart now that Preston Smith is a Green Bay Packer.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Redskins will be looking for a pass rusher in the draft. But even if they find him, it appears that Marcus Smith still could have a chance to salvage his career by putting his physical skills and 4+ years of NFL experience together in a good pre-season performance.

Marcus Smith is 26 years old. Redskins.com says he stands 6’3” and 258 pounds.

Here are Marcus Smith’s combine results:

Preston Smith is 26 years old, 6’5” and 265 pounds.

Here are Preston Smith’s combine results for comparison:

When it comes to athleticism, it looks like Marcus Smith compares favorably to Preson Smith, and, in every report from college, the Eagles and the Seahawks, he is praised for his speed and agility.

The most consistent criticisms seem to revolve around Smith’s technique and hand placement, and the question of whether he’s got the mental and emotional makeup to be a professional athlete.

Overdrafted in the first round and playing for the megalomaniac Chip Kelly under the white hot spotlight of the Philadelphia fan base, Marcus Smith became known as the biggest draft bust in Philadelphia Eagles history. That alone should be enough for any Redskins fan to love him.

But it may be worth remembering that, after a year with the nurturing ‘player’s coach’, Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks re-signed Smith last year, and were counting on him in their team plans for 2018. They wanted him on the team.

His release came for ‘personal reasons’ at a time when he was reportedly considering retirement from pro football.

Whatever happened between his release from the Seahawks in August and signing a contract with Washington in December, the fact is, Marcus Smith didn’t quit. He came back.

Bleeding Burgundy & Gold...

So, who is the real Marcus Smith?

Was the pressure of being an unexpected first-round draft pick and the atmosphere created by Chip Kelly just all too much for a young player from Louisville who ended up overwhelmed?

Should Redskins fans be encouraged that Smith, for a time, seemed to have found a home as a situational pass rusher in the supportive and positive atmosphere of Pete Carroll’s Seahawks team?

Or is the reported consideration of retirement just seven months ago a sign of mental and emotional frailty that simply underlines Smith’s failure to launch in the NFL?

Is it possible, on a Redskins team that needs depth at outside linebacker and speed on defense, with energetic and positive coaches like OLB coach Chad Grimm, Rob Ryan, Jim Tomsula and Head Coach Jay Gruden, and with nearly zero pressure or expectations, that Marcus Smith could find a place as a situational speed rusher and thrive in 2019 with the Redskins?

Or is he just a camp body?

Poll

What do you expect will happen with Marcus Smith in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Camp body - cut right after the 4th preseason game
    (307 votes)
  • 40%
    50/50 shot at making the team as the 4th or 5th OLB, but don’t expect him to be active on game days
    (394 votes)
  • 21%
    Likely to make the team as a situational pass rusher and rack up 2 to 4 sacks this season
    (206 votes)
  • 7%
    This is the guy who will replace Preston Smith
    (69 votes)
976 votes total Vote Now