Roob's observations after Eagles pick up preseason win in Cleveland


Some shoddy defense by the backups, a game-winning touchdown by a guy who hadn’t caught a pass in six years and a safety who finally made his presence felt.

The Eagles finished their five-day stay in Northeastern Ohio Sunday with a 21-20 win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Here’s our 10 Instant Observations from the second of three preseason games.

1. Not an encouraging performance from the second-team defense, which let the Browns drive 80 yards in eight plays for a TD on their first possession, then allowed field goals on the next two. You'd like to see that group figure out a way to stop veteran Joshua Dobbs and the Browns’ second offense, but as a group they seemed a step slow or out of place much of the time. Several of those guys were also still on the field when the Browns opened the second half with a 75-yard TD drive. We saw very little pass pressure, too many receivers running free and shoddy run defense. Yes, the Eagles are vanilla on defense, and they’re not blitzing or running any of their real stuff. But the Browns’ first four drives netted 280 yards, 139 rushing yards, 20 points, 3-for-5 on third down and 7.0 yards per play. And some of these guys are going to have roles on defense – Nakobe Dean, Davion Taylor, K’Von Wallace, Jordan Davis – and you don’t want to see them get gashed like that by a 27-year-old journeyman who’s thrown 17 career passes. Not alarming but definitely disappointing.

2. Jalen Reagor hasn’t had an awful training camp, but it would be a mistake to keep Reagor over Deon Cain. What you saw Sunday afternoon is what Cain has been doing all summer. He had back-to-back gains of 24 and 23 yards on contested catches from Gardner Minshew in the second quarter and finished 5-for-66. He’s got great size at 6-2, 200, he’s got some experience – he started six games for the Colts and Steelers in 2019 – and he’s by far the best of the next group behind DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal. He’s just better than Reagor. And it's not close.

3. The Eagles’ first two drives really demonstrated how deep their offensive line is. With Andre Dillard, Sua Opeta, Cam Jurgens, Jack Anderson and Jack Driscoll, the Eagles put together a 14-play, 76-yard TD drive and a 17-yard, 75-yard TD drive that both took up about 7 ½ minutes. They were as vanilla as possible, but solid line play is solid line play, and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland finds a way to get everybody in his room ready to play. Those guys aren’t as good as the starters, and that’s why they’re backups, but they’re all smart, tough and physical. If they had to play important reps, you’d feel pretty good about it. 

4. I know there’s been a lot of talk about whether the Eagles should consider acquiring Kareem Hunt, but the Eagles are in good hands with their running back group, and you saw Sunday what Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell can do. They both ran the ball efficiently, both got into the end zone and they both moved the sticks. Jason Huntley is more than capable as well. I know all about Sanders’ injury history, but since his massive all-pro rookie year in 2017, Hunt has averaged 10 ½ games and 842 scrimmage yards per season. He hasn't been special in a while. Sanders? Only 11 running backs have started more games over the last three years than Sanders, so the injuries are frustrating, but part of that is just life as an NFL running back. The Eagles have a terrific stable of backs with Sanders, Scott and Gainwell. I don’t want Hunt, and I don’t think the Eagles do either. 

5. I don’t get what the Eagles see in Reid Sinnett. He’s 25 years old, he’s with his third NFL team, he’s never played in a regular-season game, he hasn’t played well in the preseason games – other than the bomb to Devon Allen – but the Eagles seem to have handed him the No. 3 job ahead of Carson Strong – who they guaranteed $320,000 to sign here. Strong finally made his preseason debut with three minutes left and threw one pass (it was incomplete but should have been called DPI). But I’d really like to see Strong get some real preseason playing time, and I don’t understand why he hasn’t yet. After what he did at Nevada and the huge financial guarantee the Eagles made him? I don't get it.

6. It was nice to see Jaquaski Tartt finally show up and make a few plays. It’s been a quiet summer for Tartt, who also missed a week of practice because of personal reasons. But when he’s practiced, he just hasn’t done much. Considering he’s played seven NFL seasons and started 64 games, you expected more. But Sunday afternoon, Tartt made several impact plays, including a 4th-and-1 stuff on John Kelly in the fourth quarter. There are so many question marks at safety behind Marcus Epps, and the Eagles could sure use some productive play from Tartt. This was a promising start.

7. I haven’t seen anybody in that second group of outside cornerbacks separate himself yet. We know Darius Slay and James Bradberry are the starters, we know Avonte Maddox is the slot and we know Zech McPhearson is the third outside guy. Then there’s that whole next group – Mac McCain, Kary Vincent, Josh Jobe, Tay Gowan, Mario Goodrich, Josh Jobe and Josh Blackwell. They’ve all done some good things and they’ve all done some not-so-good things. None of them have shown the kind of consistency you want to see. Interesting group. They can all run and they’ve all got potential, but none of them is a finished product. Will be interesting to see if any of them can do enough down the stretch to take ownership of a roster spot.

8. One young kid who keeps jumping out for me is safety Reed Blankenship, an undrafted rookie out of Middle Tennessee. The 6-1, 205-pound Blankenship just always seems to do something positive when he’s out there, whether it’s at practice or in the games. Considering where the Eagles are at safety – Epps and a bunch of question marks – I’m not convinced Blankenship doesn’t deserve some roster consideration. Now, he’s generally going up against the other team’s third stringers, but he’s active, he’s tough, he’s physical and he’s smart, and if you have those elements in your game, you have a chance. 

9. When we first realized that Nick Sirianni valued joint practices more than preseason games when it came to getting starters work, I was skeptical. But after watching the two days of joint practices and the reps that the starters got against the Browns and then seeing all the valuable reps the backups got on Sunday, I’m convinced this is the best way to go. Those joint practices are intense. They're physical, they're chippy and they're really valuable, and like Sirianni says, it’s like the starters are playing two games in a row. Plus, offenses and defenses don’t have to be vanilla because scouts from other teams aren’t there. So it’s really high-level work. If the main goal of the preseason is getting the starters ready for opening day, I think this is a great way to do it.

10. You knew I wasn’t going to finish this without giving Allen some props for his first catch in an organized football game in six years. It’s been a rough few weeks for Allen, who rarely gets reps in practice and just hasn’t had a chance to show his world-class speed. Playing pro football after not playing any football since 2016 is incredibly challenging, but Allen has been quietly putting in the work, getting acclimated to running in pads again, learning the offense, and we finally got a glimpse of what he’s capable of when he ran away from one-time Eagle cornerback Lavert Hill and reeled in a 55-yard touchdown bomb from Sinnett for his first catch since Sept. 10, 2016, when he had four catches for 141 yards for Oregon against Virginia in Eugene. Allen isn’t making the 53, but when you see a play like that you understand why the Eagles were willing to invest the time in an Olympic hurdler who’s been away from the game for six years and why they’d like to keep him around on the practice squad. It’s not easy finding fast guys who can catch a football, and Allen showed Sunday he’s capable of both. Also heck of a throw also by Sinnett, who hasn’t made many of them.

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