Quick Takes: Five takeaways from the Eagles’ preseason tie vs. Cleveland
Following an arduous week of joint practices, the Eagles and Browns met in the second week of NFL preseason action.
Jalen Hurts and Deshaun Watson didn’t suit up for this one, setting the stage for a Marcus Mariota vs. Dorian Thompson-Robsinson showdown.
Here are five takeaways from the exhibition stalemate.
Nolan Smith Will Be A Problem
Last week, Jalen Carter went viral for his immediate impact.
This week, fellow Georgia teammate Nolan Smith put his dynamic skillset on display. Smith repeatedly beat 375-pound tackle Dawand Jones, pressuring Thompson-Robinson into incompletions and setting up sacks for his teammates.
On another play, Smith chased down WR Anthony Schwartz (who runs a 4.2 40-time) from behind on an end-around and tackled him for a five-yard loss.
Smith appeared to hurt his shoulder on a near-sack and left the game to be further examined. He walked out of the tunnel with his teammates after halftime and stated he could’ve returned to play if he had to.
It’s only preseason, but Smith is showing why many scouts considered him a top-15 talent if not for injury concerns. Philadelphia will gladly reap the benefits.
Watch the hands and bend here from Nolan Smith. Dips under Jones to set up the sack. pic.twitter.com/nI96kFd9RC— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) August 18, 2023
Battle for QB2?
For the second straight week, sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee dazzled. Marcus Mariota, not so much.
Mariota played the entire first half, completing just 53% of his passes for 86 yards, an interception, and a 42.8 passer rating. His throw intended for Grant Calcaterra wasn’t even in the same zip code and landed in the arms of Browns safety Ronnie Hickman, followed by boos from the Philly crowd in attendance.
McKee took over in the second half and his first attempt was a 12-yard completion to Joseph Ngata. He later found Tyree Jackson in stride for a 36-yard gain and had a nice deep pass to Ngata again for 20+ yards.
The Stanford product capped off the drive with a 22-yard strike to Brady Russell while rolling to his right, then hit Johnny King in tight space for the two-point conversion.
Tanner McKee’s final stat line:
- 147 yards
- 1 TD
- 0 INTs
- 100.9 passer rating
Drafting McKee didn’t make sense to me due to his limited mobility, but the kid can sling it and isn’t scared to push the ball downfield. Despite McKee’s hot start, Nick Sirianni noted that Mariota will remain the backup.
I’ll give Mariota the benefit of the doubt, given he’s an eight-year vet who probably isn’t all that interested in preseason. If given ample time with the first-team offense, Mariota should (hopefully) be good enough to win you a game or two.
Injury Bug Biting Eagles Early
In addition to Nolan Smith, the Eagles had five other players go down with injuries throughout the game.
WR Tyrie Cleveland and rookie DT Moro Ojomo were carted off after sustaining scary neck injuries. The team later announced that both players have movement in the extremities, an encouraging sign.
CB Zech McPhearson was ruled out with an ankle injury as he was unable to put pressure on his right leg. McPhearson, a key contributor on special teams, played outside corner on Thursday but has spent much of the summer at nickel.
The Eagles will already be without special teams ace Shaun Bradley for the year; losing McPhearson would be another blow to the unit.
Other injuries included WR Olamide Zaccheaus (shoulder) and OL Josh Andrews (ankle). Yet another example of why the preseason is unnecessary.
Eagles and Browns players wish Tyrie Cleveland well after he was placed on the cart pic.twitter.com/IkOzVP6sTm— Chris Franklin (@cfranklinnews) August 18, 2023
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Linebackers Getting Noticed
It’s difficult to get an accurate read on linebackers in training camp, considering you can’t hit anyone. On Thursday, Nakobe Dean finally made the splash play we’ve been waiting for, stripping RB John Kelly Jr. inside the five-yard line to force a fumble recovered by K’Von Wallace.
On the previous play, Dean was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty after hitting Thompson-Robinson during a slide. Good to see Dean have a quick memory.
Newly acquired LB Zach Cunningham was active as well, recording seven tackles and one for loss. Cunningham has been a productive linebacker when healthy and Houston handed him a $58M contract just three years ago — it wouldn’t shock me if he’s starting next to Dean in Week 1.
Nakobe Dean with a good hit on John Kelly Jr. to force the fumble. These are the plays he was known for at Georgia. pic.twitter.com/4DZHRqU255— Victor Williams (@ThePhillyPod) August 17, 2023
Up & Down Day For Running Backs
Trey Sermon had an uphill battle as it is, but he didn’t help his roster chances by fumbling a reception in the first half. Jalen Hurts was quick to mentor his former Oklahoma teammate on the sideline, and Sermon made up for his mistake with a 33-yard TD run in the third quarter.
I doubt Sermon will edge out Boston Scott as the fourth back, but maybe he’ll get an opportunity elsewhere. Kenneth Gainwell got caught in his own endzone for a safety (Josh Sills didn’t do him any favors), but that won’t affect his role moving forward.
D’Andre Swift didn’t dress for Thursday’s game; the coaching staff likely saw enough after last week’s jump cut for 22 yards. Rashaad Penny finished with two carries for 18 yards.
Philadelphia will now turn its attention to the Colts and former OC Shane Steichen. The two teams are set to compete in a joint practice on Tuesday prior to the preseason finale.
Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton | AP