Howie Roseman explains where Eagles went wrong with Nolan Smith

The Eagles' brass admitted that Smith should have played more in 2023.

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Why draft Nolan Smith in the first round and then not play him?

Good question.

And a question with no valid answer.

Smith, the 30th pick in last year’s draft, had a promising training camp, then disappeared once the season began.

He never played more than nine snaps in the Eagles’ first 10 games and averaged just 6.1 snaps per game through the Chiefs game. At one point in the middle of the season, he played just 11 snaps in a three-game stretch.

His numbers nudged up after that, but even with 41 snaps in the season finale against the Giants – most after the game had been decided – he averaged only 11 snaps per game.

Even late in the season, when the edge rushers weren’t making an impact – four sacks the last eight games, none the last four – Smith rode the bench.

He didn’t do a ton with the snaps he did get. A sack. Three QB hits. A tackle for loss. Eighteen tackles. But can you even fairly evaluate a player who’s barely playing?


Both defensive coordinators are gone, and on Tuesday Howie Roseman admitted what we all knew.

Smith should have played more.

“In retrospect, just seeing him certainly in the playoff game, one of the guys who played well in the playoff game, maybe giving him a little bit more time during the year and experience, we talked about that,” Roseman said at the combine in Indianapolis.

“He's got all the right tools in his body. He's got the right mentality. And at the same time, he's got to go out and show it.”

Smith played 16 snaps in the wild-card loss to the Bucs and it was by far his best game. He split a sack with Fletcher Cox, had four tackles in just 16 snaps and he had a quarterback hit. Pro Football Focus gave him the 4th-highest grade of all edge rushers wild-card weekend at 84.9 (Brandon Graham was highest at 90.2).

Where was that all year?

Sitting on the bench for 84 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps.

One of the main themes of Roseman’s chat with the media Tuesday was that young guys should have played more.

Smith wasn’t the only one. Kelee Ringo and Sydney Brown could have also benefited from more snaps and by the end of the season they were both starting to play well. You could even add someone like Ben VanSumeren to the list, buried behind Nicholas Morrow and Shaq Leonard all year.

When guys like Bradley Roby, Kevin Byard, Zach Cunningham, Leonard and Morrow are getting snaps ahead of promising young players something is wrong.

A lot of coaches – including apparently Nick Sirianni and Sean Desai - are more comfortable playing older guys who are more experienced and have been around but aren’t very good than young players who are going to make more plays but also might mess up more.

But Roseman’s message Tuesday was that guys like Smith should have played more and as the Eagles shed older veterans and become a younger team they’re going to have to be more reliant on draft picks and guys in their first year or two.

“It's OK to play some young players,” he said. “It's OK for them to get experience and kind of see what you have. Based on where some of our guys were, they had the ability to sit back and learn a little bit because of the situations that we were in. I think going forward it's going to be harder to do that. 

“Obviously, just as you look at our team and who is making a lot of money, and we had (some)extra picks over the last couple years. So I think that for us to play our young players, to develop them, I think that's something that coach and I have talked about to not be afraid of. That's why you draft them. That's why you sign them.”

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