Eagles' Kelly: Marcus Smith II hasn't earned more playing time
Coach Chip Kelly says his 2014 first-round pick has been 'inconsistent' and doesn't deserve to take the place of Brandon Graham.
TRENT COLE'S broken left hand that propelled Brandon Graham into a starting role against the Redskins was also expected to yield outside linebacker snaps for Marcus Smith II.
But once again, after the Eagles' woeful loss at last-place Washington, Smith's name was listed on the stat sheet as among those who, while dressed to play, did not enter the game.
That makes seven of 15 games for which this year's first-round draft pick was either inactive or held out of action. Regarding Smith's lack of action on Saturday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said yesterday the coaching staff "felt confident in the guys who were playing at that point in time."
Though drafted as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, Smith spent most of the season practicing at inside linebacker because of injuries to others at the position. Following Cole's injury in the Week 15 loss to the Cowboys, Smith began cross-training at both linebacker spots, backing up Brandon Graham on the outside.
But Graham, like Connor Barwin, played each of the team's 57 defensive snaps on Saturday.
Smith will enter Sunday's season finale against the Giants having played only 74 defensive snaps on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Of the 32 first-round picks in May's draft, the only one to play less is Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard (58), drafted 27th overall, one slot after Smith.
"I see a guy who's inconsistent at times," Kelly said of Smith's overall performance in practice. "I think he's got a good skill set and can run around and make plays, but he's not consistent enough to earn playing time over the guys that are playing.
"For me to say to Brandon Graham, 'Brandon, I'm going to have you sit down,' there's a guy that's done an unbelievable job when he's been presented with a situation. He's improved as a special-teams player. He's improved as an outside linebacker. He's been a great asset to our football team this year, and Marcus needs to continue to show us those things."
At the time Kelly addressed the media yesterday for his weekly Monday news conference, a decision had yet to have been made, the coach said, regarding who would start at left cornerback on Sunday: the embattled Bradley Fletcher or Nolan Carroll.
After DeSean Jackson twice burned Fletcher on deep balls of 50-plus yards on Saturday, Carroll claimed Fletcher's outside cornerback positions for the fourth quarter. When the defense was in dime, Fletcher and Carroll moved back to their typical spots.
Kelly was asked what has made Fletcher a better starting option than Carroll through the season's first 15 games.
"I think Bradley's played well during the year," the coach said. "You talk about, 'He got beat a couple times by Dez Bryant.' But on Thanksgiving he didn't get beat by Dez Bryant. He actually played well in that game. You've got to look at it through the whole time. I think there have been times where he's played really good football for us."
One could make an educated guess as to whom Odell Beckham Jr. hopes to line up against on Sunday, though no opposing corner has seemed to faze the Giants' stud rookie receiver. Despite missing the first four games of the year, the 12th overall pick from LSU has caught 79 passes for 1,120 yards and 11 TDs.