Two By Ground, One By Air
Rushing TDs, Bomb TD Fuel Birds Preseason Win Over Browns
For the second straight game, the Eagles scored on their opening drive, a promising sign for the offense.
Without starters playing, the Eagles’ second team offense jump-started the Sunday afternoon exhibition by going 76 yards to pay dirt on the opening possession.
Boston Scott scored the cap the first possession, and Kenneth Gainwell followed with a rushing touchdown on the second possession. Later, Devon Allen showed his Olympic speed in the second half with a 55-yard touchdown catch behind the Cleveland defense, as the Eagles scored a 21-20 win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Let’s get with the observations:
1. Anytime you can just line up and smash the ball down your opponent’s throat is impressive. The Eagles’ second offensive line was the catalyst on a 14-play, 76-yard opening drive that featured 10 runs, all by Boston Scott. The O-line also opened a huge hole on the second drive on 3rd-and-13, clearing a space for Kenneth Gainwell to run through en route to the first down. Rookie center Cam Jurgens looked good in his two possessions and was removed after. He’s been a positive throughput camp and preseason.
2. Andre Dillard also appeared to have some really good reps, in both run offense and pass pro. He came to camp bigger and stronger, like last year, but this year seemed more mentally ready to accept the challenge. Last year, despite the added muscle, he still had trouble staying on his feet and handling the bull rush, especially against Josh Sweat. Maybe those fights in practice last week before the Eagles left for Cleveland were his way of showing a nastier mentality, which he’s lacked in the past. Teams will call on Dillard at the cutdown date but given the importance of a backup left tackle, it wouldn’t shock me if Howie Roseman doesn’t make a deal unless he’s blown away.
3. Kenneth Gainwell hasn’t had a great camp, so it was striking that Boston Scott – back recently from a concussion – took all the carries on the opening drive. Has Scott leapfrogged Gainwell for the moment on the depth chart? Were the coaches sending a message to Gainwell, or just getting Scott the work he needed after missing some time? Only the coaches can answer that. Scott ran hard and made defenders miss, as he usually does, on the 76-yard opening drive, rushing for 33 total yards and a touchdown. I still think the Eagles keep just three running backs on the initial 53.
4. Gainwell did a nice job getting north immediately on that 3rd-and-13 run pickup largely due to tremendous blocking, and he ran well overall on his touches, which was good to see. Last year, the Eagles were a two-man running team. Will be interesting to see if Nick Sirianni continues that trend or if his offense involves all three running backs. Sirianni interestingly referred to Gainwell recently as a third-down back.
5. No reason to be concerned about Gardner Minshew’s iffy start to camp. He played well enough in the season opener against the Jets to shake off a tough start to camp and looked better against the Browns, establishing a good rhythm with his pass catchers and making quick decisions. He might be the only quarterback on the roster who’s shown the ability to consistently make back-shoulder throws, which he did on consecutive passes to Deon Cain in the second quarter. Minshew nearly got picked on 4th-and-goal, his worst decision of the day, but was otherwise good enough to remind folks why he’s one of the league’s better backups.
6. As for Cain, he’s making a strong push. He picked up 24 yards and 23 yards, respectively, working the boundary on those back-shoulder tosses from Minshew in the second quarter. He’s been one of the most consistent receivers in camp, but working against the 2s and 3s. The former Clemson standout’s pathway to the 53 is the Eagles trading Jalen Reagor and waiving rookie free-agent Britain Covey with the intent of bringing Covey back on the practice squad, but the Eagles could be reluctant to waive Covey over Cain, especially if they believe Cain has a better chance to clear waivers, even though Covey hasn’t exactly sparked in the preseason.
7. Hopefully, Josiah Scott’s isn’t too bad. Scott limped off the field and headed inside right before halftime. He’s been moving around on defense and playing some safety, pushing hard to make the 53. The Eagles need as many guys in the secondary who can run and cover. It wasn’t an area of strength against the Browns. Jonathan Gannon played a good amount of two-man coverage – two safeties deep, with man coverage underneath. Good chance to test his corners in man-to-man coverage without exposing them to no safety help. Many corners struggled, especially in the first half, but Josh Jobe once again made some plays and is pushing hard to make the 53.
8. Not a great display of defense for either team, especially early in the game. The first punt didn’t happen until the third quarter. The Eagles’ defensive line didn’t get much pressure on Browns starting quarterback Josh Dobbs and didn’t get enough stops on third downs. The Browns hurt the Eagles in the flats a few too many times. The Eagles also took a long, long look at third-year linebacker Davion Taylor, who played into the second half. In general, defenders appeared to struggle getting off blocks – not as bad as lsat preseason, but not great.
9. Devon Allen showcased his Olympic speed on a 55-yard touchdown catch in the third. Allen didn’t really have a great release off scrimmage, but the one deep safety bit on an underneath route, leaving the inside post for Allen, who showed that he can kick into a second gear. The touchdown really was a nice read by Sinnett, who had good protection, and sold the underneath route before unfurling a sweet pass downfield that Allen settled under for the easy catch. Good call against that defensive formation. Sinnett finally capitalized on an opportunity to show his arm strength, which he’s been showing in camp.
10. Quick observations: Still think Jason Huntley runs to east-west … Jaquiski Tartt made some plays but safety remains a major concern … Gannon showed some multiple fronts again but mostly three down linemen with an overhang … The Eagles once had hopes for cornerback Tay Gowan but he’s clearly buried on the depth chart .. defensive tackle Koby Smith ran with the second team … Carson Strong made his preseason debut very late in the game. The Eagles clearly think he’s a project and are limiting his preseason snaps so they can waive him and bring him back on the practice squad without another team interrupting the process by claiming him off waivers.
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.