Eagles' Nolan Smith can't wait to learn from Haason Reddick

Why rookie Smith can't wait to sit down with Reddick originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Nolan Smith was excited to be at rookie camp this past weekend but he was already looking forward to when the veterans would join them.

Because that’s when he hopes to finally spend some time with Haason Reddick.

“I don’t want to bother him with too many questions because I’m a rookie and so I know my place and know my role,” Smith said Friday. “So it might be a question a day, write it down, write down the question, write down his answer. So I just can’t wait.”

It’s not hard to see the similarities between Reddick and Smith. They’re both undersized edge rushers with very similar physical attributes and skills. If Smith ever finds the type of success Reddick has already achieved in the NFL, he’ll be well worth the first-round pick the Eagles used to get him.

Reddick, 28, was a first-round pick back in 2017 and was played out of position his first few years in Arizona. The Cardinals used him as an off-ball linebacker but once Reddick moved to the edge, he was unstoppable. In the last three seasons, Reddick has 39.5 sacks, with double-digit sack seasons for three different teams. He had 16 sacks last season and finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

And toward the end of his first season in Philly, Reddick began to talk more and more about wanting to become a leader in the Eagles’ locker room. It’s hard to find a better situation for that than teaching a young player who has an awfully similar game.

There’s a lot to learn from Reddick, which is why Smith had Monday written down in his calendar.

“I want to meet with him. That’s the main reason,” Smith said. “You can always learn. You’re supposed to have a growth mindset. Coach (Kirby) Smart taught us that. If you think you know everything, then you’re just ignorant.”

The biggest knock on Smith during the pre-draft process was his size. At the Combine, Smith measured in at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds. Even with a blazing 4.39 in the 40, that size isn’t for every team.

How has Smith dealt with this specific criticism?

“Only God can judge me,” he said. “I’m a God-fearing man and that’s what I believe. Long as he’s on my side and I’m able to work and I got breath in my lungs, then that’s what I’m gonna do.”

For what it’s worth, Smith said he played last season at 242 pounds. That’s the weight he likes for games because he feels more explosive. But 242 pounds, even in today’s NFL, is still pretty light for an NFL edge rusher.

But plenty of people have doubted Reddick too.

“I just feel like media always knock us on the same thing,” Smith said. “Certain guys like me and … Von Miller’s not knocked on anymore because he’s proven himself. But just guys like us that’s undersized. I just want to know certain things about how [Reddick] approaches the game, how does he study. There’s so many questions I want to ask.”

There’s something invaluable about a young player learning from a veteran but it doesn’t replace coaching. And the Eagles have a pretty good position coach for their edge players in Jeremiah Washburn.

Smith and Washburn have already been clicking and Smith already started rattling off some of the ways Wash is helping him fix his lines and aiming points. He said Washburn is coaching him the way he wants to be coached.

Hearing Smith speak, it’s sometimes easy to forget he’s a 22-year-old rookie who hasn’t even put on NFL shoulder pads yet. Of the three Georgia players the Eagles drafted this year, Smith is the most comfortable in front of a microphone and is clearly more vocal than the other two.

But he still has a lot to learn.

And that will kick into high gear when he finally gets in the same room with Reddick.

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