Biggest takeaways from the Eagles 2nd preseason game

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Anthony Schwartz (10) runs for a first down in front of Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Ben VanSumeren (57) during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia’s 18-18 tie to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night may have been something that fans may not be accustomed to seeing, but the way the Eagles played should make most of them happy.

Head coach Nick Sirianni again sat the majority of the team’s top players in their game against the Browns but saw some important role players flash in a big way during the contest. As always, we go through the biggest takeaways here.

Eagles are in good hands at linebacker

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 02: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) enters the field during training camp on August 2, 2022 at the Novacare Complex in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

If there was one key takeaway from Thursday’s contest, it was that the Eagles are set at the linebacker position and fans should be very happy to hear that.

First, Nakobe Dean, in his first action as the team’s starter at the MIKE, played very well. Yes, he was called for a bad unnecessary roughness penalty, but he made up for it with a key goalline fumble forced to get a turnover when the group needed it most. He also was very quick on his reads and looked like he knew where he was supposed to go at all times.

The other piece to the linebacker room was Zach Cunningham. The recently signed former Titan led the team in tackles Thursday with seven and was very good in coverage. All in all, the combination of Cunningham and Dean certainly looked like the best duo the team has had in a long time.

Tanner McKee has earned the #2 QB role

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws the ball during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

It was almost laughable to watch the obvious changes from the Eagles’ offense when Marcus Mariota and Tanner McKee were in at quarterback. When Mariota was in, the offense sputtered behind the quarterback’s inefficiencies to hit wide-open receivers over the middle of the field.

When McKee was in, the Eagles moved the ball with confidence, conviction, and positive results. McKee finished Thursday 10/18 passing (four drops are included) for 147 yards and a touchdown pass. His passer rating was almost 60 points higher than Mariota’s.

The Eagles are pretty steadfast in having Mariota be the team’s leading backup but it’s so obvious he’s the third-best quarterback on the roster. If Jalen Hurts were to ever get hurt this season, the team needs the quarterback who gives them the best chance to move the ball on Sundays. As crazy as it sounds, that is now McKee.

Nick Sirianni was right to sit the starters

Eagles nick sirianni
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 27: Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni during the National Football League preseason game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 27, 2021 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Injuries can happen to any team and luck usually plays a role in that. In 2022 the Eagles learned that lesson while being one of the healthiest teams in football.

It doesn’t seem like that is going to be the case in 2023 though and it’s a good thing Sirianni understood as much before the games started.

The Eagles had five different injuries of differing severity on Thursday which showed how smart an idea it was to have almost all key players sit this preseason. To start, Nolan Smith suffered a shoulder injury that isn’t serious. He’s an important piece to the 2023 team so his preseason is most likely done.

The downside is that special teams ace Zech McPhearson was lost for the season due to a torn Achilles. He was the immediate backup to Avonte Maddox in the slot and his role in punt and kick coverages will be heavily watched over the next few weeks.

Philadelphia also received a couple of major scares as well. Moro Ojomo and Tyrie Cleveland both needed to be taken out on stretchers and rushed to the hospital for head and neck injuries. Both incidents were scary but both players had feeling in their extremities so that added some level of important comfort.

Also just to make one final point – the fact that the wave was being done during some of these very serious injuries is an absolute embarrassment and an atrocious look for the entire fanbase. The fans at the game should be ashamed for taking part in that. Read the room.

The RB room has been decided

PHILADELPHIA, PA – JANUARY 21: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) hands off to Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell (14) during the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on January 21, 2023 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

People may think that Trey Sermon’s 33-yard touchdown run in the second half may have made the running back position battle harder, but in reality, Thursday showed the battle is all but over. Sermon’s fumble on a screen pass was something he couldn’t afford to have happen and is probably on his way to being the odd man out.

Rashaad Penny looked very good behind a makeshift line on his own and Boston Scott is not getting released as long as the New York Giants are going to be on the schedule.

Sermon needed to be perfect this preseason to be on the final 53-man roster and he simply was not on Thursday. Even if he showed flashes.

Sydney Brown should start at safety

Philadelphia could have four to five starters on defense in their rookie or second year at this point in the preseason. Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis have looked solid in preseason work, but Jalen Carter and Sydney Brown have been revelations for the defense at this point.

We know what Carter can be but Brown put forth another strong performance against Cleveland on Thursday.

He finished the day with just one tackle but has an overall grade of over 70 through two preseason games per Pro Football Focus. He has simply played better than Terrell Edmunds at this point and is worthy of a chance to start on the 2023 defense.

This defense could be young but loaded with potential this season.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola