Marcus Smith is back at outside linebacker this week because of Trent Cole's broken hand, and defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the "jury's still out" on where the first-round pick will play long-term. Davis admitted Smith's development has been stunted by the move inside.
Cole could be out this week. The Eagles would start Brandon Graham and not play as much of a rotation, with Smith providing depth. Smith's move back outside puts his rookie season again in the spotlight. Smith has twice been inactive and did not reach the field in four games he was active this season. He has only one tackle this season and has juggled between linebacker positions.
"Out of necessity, we had to move him," Davis said. "That doesn't benefit him or his progress. It does not. So we set him back by moving him inside, but we needed that because of all the injuries we had on the inside. And it's a credit to him that he's got both the mental capability and physical capability to go inside and learn. Now he didn't overtake anybody because he's never been in there.
"...As we grow and go forward, it's something he can use as a plus instead of a minus. Now he goes outside again and he needs to get the rust off. From that aspect, his development has been stifled a little bit because of what he had to do. But in the long run, in the future, I think he'll benefit from this move."
However, the Eagles still do not know which position Smith will play in the future. This is alarming for any player four months into the season, but especially a first-round pick. Davis said the judgment on Smith's development must be slowed down because of the changing positions.
"I'm not positive right now," Davis said. "I would say outside first, but I still think the jury's out on him. I still think I like some flashes inside. But where's his understanding? When a player really understands his role and how to do it, he plays fast. Mychal Kendricks is getting better and better. Now all the sudden, that athleticism is showing. Where at first, it wasn't because he was thinking. So right now, if you judge Marcus, you have to slow down the judgement a little bit. We moved him, where's his understanding, let's see how good he can be."
As for Cole, Davis said there are "still some decisions that must go on in Trent's camp" regarding Saturday's availability, but he didn't think Cole would play.
"I don't know for sure, but I think he'll be back the next week if he's not in this week," Davis said.
Davis said the Eagles "have the most utmost confidence" in Graham. The rotation at outside linebacker would be limited.