DE Bryan Smith gets a chance

During today's red zone drills, running back Eldra Buckley caught a dumpoff pass and went to turn upfield.

He may have thought he had some room at first, but from behind came defensive end Bryan Smith to make the tackle and nearly force a fumble.

Smith has made that kind of play on a pretty routine basis during camp, and he said it's probably what made the Eagles take notice when they selected him out of McNeese State in the third round of last year's draft.

"That's just being relentless," he said. "You can't teach that. That's just in you, in your heart. And that's what I do. No matter how far it is, I want to go get the ballcarrier until he's down.

"That's what I did all in college. That's just kind of my heart and soul. That's what I do."

Smith got a chance to run with the first team this morning after starter Trent Cole left with what the team is calling a sprained left shoulder. He said he's had to worry less about knowing the plays this year, and can focus more on technique.

Where has he made the most progress since his rookie campaign?

"Probably in the pass rush game," Smith said. "That's a big aspect of our defense, to be able to get out in pass rush and beat tackles wherever they put us, and that's what I've tried to be doing."

The Birds are obviously looking for someone to step up as a pass rusher. They were rumored to be interested in Oakland's Derrick Burgess before he got traded to the Patriots, and Victor Abiamiri has been on the shelf all camp.

Keep your eye on No. 63 Thursday night against the Patriots. The Eagles are counting on several of their picks from the '08 draft, and Smith could be one of the guys they need to have an impact in his second year.

More observations from practice coming before the night is over.