While the NFL preseason might not impact or even predict a team’s regular season record, the stakes are real for the younger players on any roster. The Philadelphia Eagles currently have 15 rookies on the team. The stakes are high; be it a high draft pick fighting for playing time or an undrafted free agent hoping to make the team. In the Eagles’ first preseason contest against the Ravens, they might have not won the game but there are plenty of positive takeaways when it comes to the young players.
Jalen Carter: A
Jalen Carter’s first ever snap in the NFL gave us all a glimpse of what the rookie can bring to the defense. Carter bullied his way past guard Ben Cleveland to apply pressure to Josh Johnson, forcing a throwaway and a three-and-out. Carter didn’t see much of the field in the game, but that was a great taste of why the Eagles coveted Carter in the draft. He should be making those plays early and often in his rookie year.
Nolan Smith: C
Nolan Smith saw a lot more snaps than his fellow first rounder. It makes sense given the Eagles depth at edge and also helping Smith get his feet wet after he’s spent much of the last few months recovering from injury. Smith did have a nice pressure late in the game where his speed was too much for the opposing tackle, but outside of that it was a mostly quiet evening for the rookie. The Ravens got a big run earlier in the game when Smith did not set the edge and allowed the running back to cut back outside and get upfield. The lack of discipline makes sense considering these are his first football snaps in a while and he was adjusting to NFL speed. However, this is a clear spot he will need to improve on before the Eagles can trust him with meaningful snaps in the regular season.
Tyler Steen: B-
Tyler Steen got the nod at left tackle to start the game yesterday and played for much of the contest. His NFL career got off to an inauspicious start when he whiffed on a block and gave up a sack very early in the game. Now it was on a blitz and looked like it could have come from miscommunication up front, but Steen did not block anybody on the play. Despite this ugly mishap, Steen recovered to play solid football for the rest of his time out there. He looked especially comfortable run blocking. The Eagles are going to be patient with Steen’s development and give him so many preseason snaps because of how little he figures to play in the regular season. For a first start, Steen did much more good than bad, which is encouraging.
Sydney Brown: A
Sydney Brown did not get the start at safety last night but it is hard to see that trend lasting any longer. Brown was a heat seeking missile as a tackler, flying up field to make stops against the run and keep yards after catch low in the passing game. His comfort and aggression in his first NFL snaps is exciting and hopefully he continues to play at this level. Before long, he could lock up a starting position in this defense.
Kelee Ringo: B
Kelee Ringo got the start at cornerback, an indicator he’s not too far behind Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the depth chart. Ringo gave up an early touchdown to Ravens first round pick Zay Flowers. It wasn’t horrible coverage, just a tough to cover back shoulder pass that was executed well. That being said, you’d like to see the 6’2” cornerback be a bit more imposing against a much smaller receiver. Ringo played solid football for the rest of the game, though. He even had an impressive pass breakup where he came back to the ball quickly to prevent a reception. Ringo’s size and speed were on full display and he made a positive impression overall.
Tanner McKee: B+
Tanner McKee’s first snaps in the NFL were a pleasant surprise. The sixth round pick looked comfortable in the pocket and started his play off with a great pass downfield, putting his big arm on full display. He had some erratic throws too, missing on a few gimmes, but overall it is hard not to be impressed with the throws he did make and how he made them. McKee looks like a lock at the third quarterback spot and has the makings of a intriguing developmental player.
Moro Ojomo: B
Moro Ojomo has his work cut out for him. It is an uphill battle for any late round pick to make a team, but Ojomo is in one of the most crowded defensive line rooms in the league. He looks up to the challenge after a nice showing last night against Baltimore. In limited snaps, Ojomo had some nice moments generating pressure as a pass rusher and showed up as a run defender. Ojomo is playing hard and is a clearly talented player. He looks like he will make it hard to cut him.
The Undrafted Players
The Eagles have two really solid undrafted free agent cornerbacks in Mekhi Gardner and Eli Ricks. Ricks had a fantastic pick six and generally looked solid the whole time he was out there. Gardner forced a fumble on a punt return and also stood out on defense. The Eagles defensive backfield is full of talent but these two are battling for a spot on the roster.
The Eagles have a handful of undrafted pass catchers. Wide receiver Jadon Hasslewood had an impressive back shoulder reception where he bobbled the ball but held on. Joseph Ngata didn’t light the world on fire after being a camp standout, but there were some notable moments. He had a catch that was ruled an OPI on him, but it was still a relatively impressive showing of how he can use his size and physicality. Seeing him run around on the field, it is obvious why the team is high on him. Tight end Brady Russell dropped a short pass he should’ve been able to catch.
Linebacker Ben VanSumeren was second on the team in tackles last night, but failed to really stand out in a positive way. He missed an open field attempt at one point. Every linebacker on the team not named Nakobe Dean is fighting for a roster spot, so VanSumeren needs to play a bit more confidently in the next contest.