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Eagles rookie report card from the Commanders game

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

The Eagles are 7-1 after another close call with the Commanders. They swept Washington this season after going 1-1 against them last year. This crucial win helped Philadelphia’s standing in the conference while keeping them in control of the NFC East. The game saw many contributions by the Eagles rookies.

Jalen Carter: N/A

Jalen Carter got banged up early on then and left midway in the third quarter due to a back injury. Carter had a nice pressure up the middle to help force an incompletion but otherwise did not stand out very much in the few snaps he played. You can probably chalk that up to him being slowed by injury.

Nolan Smith: N/A

Nolan Smith only saw a few snaps on defense against Washington and mostly saw playing time playing off-ball, dropping into coverage instead of rushing the passer. He looked comfortable in space, but it’s curious usage given Smith’s natural gifts as a pass rusher. At the midway point in the season, Smith’s low position on the depth chart makes sense but I still think he should be seeing more playing time than Derek Barnett.

Tyler Steen: B

Tyler Steen actually saw some time on offense after Sua Opeta had to briefly leave. It wasn’t a huge role, but Steen looked comfortable at guard in limited snaps. With Cam Jurgens due to come back soon, that spot is spoken for, but Steen looked good enough to warrant consideration as a back up.

Sydney Brown: B-

Sydney Brown saw the most playing time of any of the Eagles rookies, playing over 50% of the defensive snaps. After the Eagles traded for Kevin Byard, it was unclear where Brown fit in the secondary but now that role looks far more clarified. Brown played down near the line of scrimmage as a slot defender. His athleticism helped him cover Washington’s handful of speedy defenders and he looked really great as a run defender. He did give up a touchdown to Jahan Dotson where he was manned up with no help over the top. It looked like more of a miscommunication than him just getting plain beat, but still an area that needs to get cleaned up nonetheless. Brown’s play was largely encouraging and he should continue to thrive in that role going forward.

Eli Ricks: B+

Ricks rotated in as a slot cornerback and continued his strong rookie season. He had tight coverage all game and made some great tackles in space. Ricks has been a really nice find for the Eagles and his strong play is probably why they didn’t feel the need to aggressively add another cornerback before the trade deadline.

The Rest:

  • Kelee Ringo continues to be a steady special teams contributor
  • Moro Ojomo and Tanner McKee were inactive. Ojomo will be active as DT6 moving forward following the Kentavius Street trade.

A note on a Washington rookie...

Washington made Emmanuel Forbes the second cornerback drafted in the 2023 draft. One pick before Christian Gonzalez and a round before Joey Porter Jr. Forbes was always a projection due to his outlier weight at the cornerback position. When Washington drafted him, I wrote:

“The big concern for Forbes is size. Yes he stands tall at almost 6’1” with long arms, but he showed up to the combine weighing 166 pounds (zeroth percentile!). Size is something that can and has been overcome in the NFL, just ask DeVonta Smith, but 166 pounds is unprecedented for a cornerback. Forbes being such a great mover and technical cornerback helped him dominate in the SEC, but how does that look against equally athletic and skilled receivers who are much bigger than him? CeeDee Lamb weighs more than 30 pounds heavier than Forbes. AJ Brown weighs sixty pounds more than him. These numbers matter when trying to press a receiver at the line, win at the catch point against him, or try to tackle him.”

Obviously we can’t slam the door shut on a guy’s career after eight weeks, but it is notable how badly AJ Brown has abused Emmanuel Forbes in the two games they’ve faced off against each other. In the first match up, Brown beat him like a drum for four quarters. On Sunday, the Commanders mostly kept Forbes away from Brown, but on one of the few snaps the rookie was covering him, Brown muscled over him for a touchdown.

The last first round pick of the Dan Snyder era was another doozie.

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