Eagles analysis

McKee continues to make things interesting for Sirianni

The Stanford product has opened eyes in the preseason

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Rookies aren’t supposed to play like this. Sixth-round picks aren’t supposed to play like this. Third-stringers aren’t supposed to play like this.

Tanner McKee continued his eye-popping preseason Thursday night against the Browns with another big-time passing performance.

With each passing day, McKee looks more and more like a real NFL quarterback. When training camp began he was throwing to his first read, rushing his throws and struggling to find open receivers. Here we are just a month later and McKee looks efficient, confident and comfortable in a very complex offense.

Nick Sirianni shrugged off the notion that McKee could challenge struggling Marcus Mariota for the Eagles’ backup quarterback job – “Marcus is our backup” – but McKee is doing all he can to make a legit run at No. 2.

“For me, I just want to play my best and reach my potential,” McKee said. “As far as depth chart and who makes the team and everything like that, that’s going to be out of my hands. So I’m just going to try to go out, play my best ball and control what I can control.”

On Thursday, as soon as McKee replaced Mariota he restored order to the offense, immediately found open receivers that Mariota couldn’t find and distributed the football accurately and efficiently.

Despite being victimized by several drops, he was 10-for-18 for 147 yards with a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brady Russell and a game-tying two-point conversion pass to Johnny King in a game that ended in an 18-18 tie.

“I thought overall it was a decent game,” McKee said. “I felt pretty good as far as managing the offense and everything. Obviously a couple that I wish I had back and I wish I could go again. But overall, I thought it was decent but definitely a lot to improve on.”

McKee continues to drive the ball down the field in a way that Mariota hasn’t been able to. McKee has 10 completions of 15 or more yards in the two preseason games, and Mariota has one.

His 100.9 passer rating was highest by an Eagles rookie in a preseason game since Nick Foles had a 143.8 against the Steelers with TD passes to Mardy Gilyard and Damaris Johnson at the Linc in the preseason opener in 2012.

Rookie sixth-round picks are just not supposed to look this composed, confident and in command.

“You see it in practice,” Sirianni said. “So we’re not surprised by it because we treat the practice like a game. 

"We felt really good about how he looked in practice (so far). Pleased obviously with how he played. I think he was what, 10 of 18? But there were some drops there.

"I don’t know. Maybe three or four? Four or five. So the ball was going where it needed to go. It was accurate. Some really nice throws into some tight coverage.”

You don’t want to get too carried away with McKee because it’s just two preseason games against Ravens and Browns 2nd- and 3rd-stringers.

But he’s making every throw and carrying himself like a veteran.

He's got something, and the most encouraging thing is he keeps getting better.

If you watched Mariota and McKee Thursday night and didn’t know who either one was, you would swear Mariota was the rookie late-round pick and McKee the eighth-year veteran.

McKee has taken to Sirianni’s offense quickly and masterfully. He is from Stanford, after all.

“I love the variety,” he said. “I love how we can make adjustments on the fly. We have plays that have automatic adjustments to them or just in the middle of the play, a receiver can change his stem or his depth or anything based off the coverage or the type of defense, which I think is really beneficial for a quarterback or a receiver. 

“When you run the offense well, it’s unstoppable because we should have answers for everything the defense can throw at us.”

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