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Eagles v. Browns: 11 winners, losers, and I dunnos

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I just watched a 5-0 preseason game on Fox in its entirety I deserve your click

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine how much we would be caring about this preseason thus far if the Eagles weren’t coming off of a Super Bowl victory.

*shudders*

Winners

Doug Pederson

If you ever doubt that Doug Pederson is overwhelmingly competitive, ask him how he feels about the first half of a preseason performance. Wheew.

I’ve got so much love for Doug just laying into Nick Foles during the walk ‘n talk with Erin Andrews heading into the locker room. When your players perform badly, there’s no reason to pull punches and pretend otherwise. Nick isn’t a young, shaky players who needs his confidence coddled — so don’t do it.

Bruce Hector

I’m taking the L on Elijah Qualls, about whom I wrote positively in the summer. He’s been beaten out for the DT3/4 spot by Bruce Hector, the UDFA out of South Florida.

While he came without much buzz (though BLG would want me to remind you how much money he got in his UDFA deal), Hector has just been a steady force on the interior. He doesn’t provide much pass rush upside — there was some decent push against the Browns — but he’s an active and powerful run defender who has more quickness to him than you expect. He’s a 53-man player.

DeAndre Carter

The biggest win for Carter? That the coaching staff wanted him to get all of those reps on ‘dress rehearsal’ night. First-team slot reps, all of the significant punt returning looks, and all sorts of space plays. He’s clearly viewed above Rashard Davis and Greg Ward Jr.

He saw looks on multiple screens (one completed for a 1st down) and even ran some routes from the outside as well. His special teams contributions — an area of the game in which he doesn’t have much experience — will be what decides his activity on game day if he indeed does make the roster, but for as long as Markus Wheaton is injured, he looks the favorite to dress in Alshon Jeffery’s absence.

Cameron Johnston

60 yard net on one punt. Coffin corner punt downed near the 10 on another. Never lost!

5-man fronts

Jim Schwartz has grown so much from his time coaching the Lions — it doesn’t get covered enough. Turn on the Detroit tape, and the coverage shells and defensive line alignment are inflexible and predictable. Turn on the Philadelphia tape, and there’s so much more fluidity, adjustment, and freedom. He isn’t a Wide-9 coordinator anymore. He’s a defensive innovator/mastermind/savant/other buzzword.

The most impactful change — one I’ve seen emphasized all offseason — is how often Schwartz is rotating a man down onto the line to get a 5-man front. It showed up in 2017, but I can’t remember it at this frequency. It forces the offensive line into BOB assignments, which limits double teams on elite pass rushers. That alone unlocks the pass rush more than the Wide-9 alignment ever did.

Losers

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

If Vaitai didn’t prepare well for the game against the Pats, man...he must have not been told about the Browns game until this morning. His technique was never great, but it nosedived across the course of the first half against Myles Garrett.

And while Garrett’s an animal, he really wasn’t doing anything special against Vaitai. Big V’s sets were so poor — upright, unbalanced, tentative — that Garrett simply bulled into his chest and knocked him back into Foles play after play after play. That is not good.

Vaitai is not the future at offensive tackle. He never has been. This is just a reminder.

Nick Foles

I love it when Nick Foles plays like this, honestly. Obviously, I feel way better about it when it’s in a meaningless preseason game, but it serves as a good reminder to everyone that Foles’ playoff run was nothing short of miraculous. That’s fine; that doesn’t detract from it — rather, that adds to it. Foles knew, coming into Atlanta and Minnesota and New England, he had put out real stinkers of games in his career. He couldn’t have been amazingly confident. And yet, he still did that.

Anyway, Foles’ second interception was so bad I laughed out loud. He’d be better in a regular season game for sure — more game planning, higher stakes — but that was hysterically awful.

Shelton Gibson

Gibby’s been killing the preseason and will certainly be rostered — that’s good news across the board after his disappointing rookie season. But while his strengths have shined in a way they never did in 2017, the weaknesses still glare.

Gibson had a shoulda-been picked curl route on the far side of the field on which he just shrank away from the closing corner. In the ensuing cut scene from commercial, the broadcast shared audio of WR coach Gunter Brewer telling him as such: shorten the throw for the QB, work back to the ball. Later on, he got leveraged far into the sideline on a go route that he couldn’t win vertically. His issues with physicality haven’t gone anywhere.

Jake Elliott

Dude, it’s shorter. Like the other ones, but easier.

I dunnos

Wendell Smallwood/Josh Adams/Matt Jones

What does Wendell do particularly well? My vote is nothing. What does Josh Adams do particularly well? Follow his blockers and fall forward. What does Matt Jones do particularly well? Fumble. Just sign Charcandrick West.

If I had to guess...woof. I still think Smallwood. I know Josh Adams is a fan favorite, but he doesn’t really do anything special beyond get what’s blocked, while Smallwood at least has the burst to eat up yardage in space. They packaged some plays nicely for Wendell, and he got all those early reps.

Isaac Seumalo

Yeah, so Seumalo played about 9 different positions on the offensive line tonight (4 if you count TE). And that’s what makes him valuable to Philadelphia; that’s what secures his spot on the roster. Though I doubt the plan, should Kelce go down in the regular season, will be to leave Wiz at LG and plug Seumalo in at C.

But here’s the thing about versatility being your most valuable asset: it typically means you’re not that good. And Seumalo had more bad reps than good at center and guard for the umpteenth night in a row, so while his versatility is keeping him afloat, Philadelphia should look to upgrade at their interior depth.