It’s preseason and the score doesn’t count, though it does not mean every play does not count, especially for players fighting for jobs, and players fighting for their place on the depth chart.
The Eagles’ second preseason game showed some depth and the second-team offense showed it could move the ball—against the second team Cleveland Browns defense on Sunday, producing touchdowns on the first two drives.
The second-team offense banged out a combined 31 plays for 158 yards, which resulted in a Boston Scott one-yard, first-quarter touchdown plunge, and a Kenny Gainwell two-yard score in the second quarter.
If the Eagles showed any deficiencies, it came on defense. There was an olé move that allowed Browns’ quarterback Joshua Dobbs to go right down the sideline on Cleveland’s first drive.
Here’s a look at a lot of good, some bad and some ugly in the Eagles’ 21-20 victory at Cleveland.
On the first play of the game, center Cam Jurgens pulled right and slammed Browns’ third-string rookie strong safety D’Anthony Bell into the turf on Boston Scott’s 13-yard run down the sideline. It showed that Jurgens can reach the third level, granted against Cleveland’s deep depth chart, though it was good to know what he can bring this season if Jason Kelce, the Eagles’ anchor, unfortunately goes down. When Jurgens pulled to the left, it fooled the Browns, thinking run on the first drive, when they passed.
Jurgens was really impressive on a Kenny Gainwell 10-yard run up the middle on the second drive. At the Eagles’ 38, on a second-and-nine, Jurgens sealed off the inside, giving Gainwell a running lane, then bounced off the block to take out a linebacker a few yards down field, making two blocks on the same play.
If Kelce is not ready in time for the opener at Detroit on September 11, Jurgens appears capable of filling his role. Jurgens’ biggest issue will be defensive recognition, since Kelce calls out the offensive line adjustments. Jurgens has nowhere near the knowledge that Kelce possesses instinctively at this stage in his career. Physically, Jurgens looks like the Eagles got a steal in the second round.
Running back Boston Scott’s second effort on the 11th play of the opening drive, after being hit twice, lounged forward for a first down. He’s going to find a role with the Eagles somewhere. He’s reliable and knows how to find the end zone. Scott had 11 touches on 14 plays in the first drive, for 44 yards.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew completed his first six passes and looked sharp. He looked good the first two drives, and he showed he has a great command of the offense. He directed two TD drives and did a lot of the unexpected. Minshew completed 14 of 17 for 142 yards. He made one big error near the end of the half, but otherwise, his game was clean.
Running back Kenny Gainwell may not be Miles Sanders, but he is explosive and he’s certainly proven in a short time that he’s a viable back in the NFL.
Wide receiver Deon Cain probably won’t make the team, though his second quarter catch down the sideline on a second-and-six from the Eagles’ 49 was great film for him for other teams that may be interested. Cain went up against Browns’ third-team defensive back Lavert Hill for a 24-yard gain. If he’s not going to be on the Eagles this fall, he may be with someone else thanks to catches like that. Cain followed that up with a 23-yard catch at the Browns’ three.
Quarterback Reid Sinnett’s arcing 55-yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen with 3:42 left in the third quarter. Sinnett is getting plenty of preseason reps. Carson Strong is getting trash time. It seems Sinnett will make the Eagles again. Allen is a great athlete, though the two-time Olympic hurdler does not look like he’ll make the team.
Linebacker Shaun Bradley breaking up a pass on fourth-and-nine at the Eagles’ 47 with 3:09 left to play. Bradley gives the Eagles great depth at linebacker. He will get time other than special teams this season.
Linebacker Davion Taylor and Nakobe Dean’s inability to shed blocks on a Browns’ screen play on a second-and-six from the Cleveland 32 on its opening position. Dean later took a bad angle on the same drive.
Jurgens getting flagged on the second series for illegal man downfield.
Much was said about first-round draft pick Jordan Davis, referencing his size, his athleticism for someone his size, and how impactful he’s been on caving in the line of scrimmage. Against the Browns, he hardly seemed to be there.
Defensive back Josh Jobe had a bit of an off-and-on day. The rookie from Alabama is on the brink of making the team, however, being passive on a perimeter run, as he was late in the second quarter did not help. He came up for run support taking an inside angle, allowing the runner to get out of bounds then got caught in the backwash of the run. Jobe did make a nice play in the end zone, swatting away a pass on the Browns final offensive play of the first half.
For some reason, Taylor let up on Browns’ quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ 34-yard scramble down the sideline on the opening drive at the Eagles’ 42, on a second-and-six. Taylor had a chance to knock Dobbs out of bounds and seemed to let him go. On the next play, Taylor got caught inside on Dobbs’ seven-yard touchdown run. It was not a good opening series for Taylor, who’s shown some promise.
Minshew’s fortunate incompletion on fourth-and-goal with 1:57 left in the half. Okay, it’s preseason, but on the third series, don’t you need to put the ball into the end zone there? Thankfully the Browns’ Herb Miller flubbed it and dropped what looked like a goal line-to-goal line touchdown.
Safety Jaquiski Tartt was supposed to add depth to the weakest area of the field at safety. Marcus Epps seems the only reliable presence at safety. As for Tartt, he’s done nothing, or at least anything that’s merited the idea he could help the Eagles at safety. It’s an ugly sign when Tartt is running with the second and third teams.
The Eagles’ third-team defense on the Browns’ opening drive of the second half. Running back John Kelly Jr. had the whole back side to run free for a six-yard touchdown. The drive was pocked with missed tackles, bad angles and blown assignments.
With 1:55 left in the game, Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni was forced to burn a timeout because the Eagles’ punt return team did not have the proper personnel on the field. Someone will hear about that on Monday.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.