A new defense, position, and coaching staff should, theoretically, give Marcus Smith a new lease on his fluttering NFL career.

The third-year defensive end is approaching this season with that premise. And who can blame him? If Smith didn't believe this was his chance to finally deliver upon the promise of the draft, then he might as well join first-round busts like Danny Watkins in the real world.

"I want at least 10 sacks, 10 [tackles for loss], and at least four interceptions," Smith said when asked for his 2016 goals.

He said he had the same goals last season. He finished 81/2 sacks, 81/2 tackles for loss, and four interceptions short. Of course, Smith played only 10 percent of the defensive plays as an outside linebacker in the Eagles' two-gap 3-4 a year ago. Even Reggie White couldn't have hit those numbers playing just 126 snaps.

Jim Schwartz's new 4-3 defense is supposed to better utilize Smith's skill set, though. The attacking- scheme is supposed to simplify his responsibilities. It's supposed to put him in better position to hit those lofty goals.

"It's a lot better than it was in past years, because I'm not thinking as much," Smith said Wednesday after practice. "I'm not doing anything as far as dropping into coverage. Really, I'm just going, and that's what Coach Schwartz wants."

But going doesn't mean you're going to get there.

There are two problems with the scheme-will-help-Smith narrative. The first has more to do with logistics than anything related to his capabilities. While the defense has changed, the personnel at defensive end has not.

Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin are also making the switch from outside linebacker to defensive end. Curry and Graham were drafted to play in similar schemes, and Barwin, while probably better equipped to play in a 3-4, has experience in a 4-3.

Those three are significantly ahead of Smith, and nothing in training camp thus far has dispelled the notion.

"Those guys are really not ahead of me," Smith countered. "There's not a set depth chart. We also switch in and out and rotate. So I don't see it as they're ahead of me, I just see it as we're all playing together, trying to win."

Smith's optimism is admirable. He should concede zilch. But the defensive end rotation will mostly consist of three players. He likely has a lock on the fourth spot, but does he have a lock on a roster spot?

"He gives you good depth at the end position," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "Starting to show that physicality that you want out of him in that position and has done a nice job. These last couple of padded practices, I've noticed him probably a little bit more. . . . I think he'll be a valuable piece of that defense."

More than likely, Smith is safe as the No. 4 end. He doesn't really have much competition. Bryan Braman will make the team, but only for his special-teams abilities. Journeyman Steven Means and rookie seventh-round pick Alex McCalister are the only other defensive ends on the roster - although that could change.

The Eagles would still be on the hook for approximately $2.1 million if they were to release Smith. They also would be finally admitting that they wasted their 2014 first-round selection, however, obvious.

Or could Howie Roseman, after confirming this offseason that Smith was his decision, cut him to begin the process of expunging the pick from memory? The Eagles have about five weeks to mull it over.

Smith, at times, looks more at ease rushing downhill - particularly early in a series. He has speed. That has never been in dispute. But his first instinct too often is to try to turn the corner on tackles. Smith faced off against Jason Peters during the start of an 11-play drive Wednesday, and there was nothing he could do to get by the Pro Bowl left tackle.

"He looks at me as a speed guy, so he tries to set deep on me," Smith said of Peters.

Smith clearly tired as the series progressed. When Peters took a breather, Matt Tobin replaced him. Still nothing. Peters took Smith aside later on.

"I just told him to get off and finish at the top of his rush," Peters said. "When he comes into me, his rush is over because I sit down on him and get up under. I told him if he finishes every rush he would be OK."

He has to get stronger, though. If he can't get by offensive linemen with his initial burst, he often doesn't have the necessary strength to power through. During a one-on-one drill against offensive lineman Dillon Gordon, Smith could not penetrate past the undrafted rookie despite the uncomfortably long amount of time he was given.

Gordon kept pushing him back as if he were a pesky younger brother. Smith, clearly frustrated, gave Gordon an extra push after the whistle.

Smith said that he used to let outside criticism affect his psyche, but that he has learned to block out the noise. It's not his fault the Eagles chose him in the first round, after all, but he still wants to prove them right.

"I've always got a chip on my shoulder, I've always got something to prove," Smith said. "I want to show everybody I can play, show why the Eagles drafted me in the first round. I'm going to be able to showcase that now."

Or not.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane