August 24, 2023   6 MIN READ

McKee To 53?

DiCecco: Rookie QB, Others Stand Out In Preseason Finale


PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles on Thursday wrapped up their three-game exhibition season, falling to the Indianapolis Colts at home, 27-13.

The Colts entered the break carrying a 17-13 lead and piled on another 10 after to put the game out of reach.

Former Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew took the ball for the Colts coming out of intermission and led an 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive, which culminated in an eight-yard pass to running back Kenyon Drake. Minshew finished 9-of-11 for 102 yards (136.8 passer rating) and a touchdown.

Conversely, Eagles rookie quarterback Tanner McKee cooled off a bit after a hot start to preseason play, completing 19-of-34 pass attempts for 158 yards. He was sacked twice.

Ian Book closed out the finale for the Eagles, completing 11-of-15 pass attempts for 80 yards.

Colts first-round pick Anthony Richardson and his fellow first-teamers played the first half, with Richardson mustering only six completions for 78 yards against the Eagles’ reserves.

Eagles wide receiver/kick returner Devon Allen returned the opening kickoff 73 yards, affording Marcus Mariota and the Eagles’ offense a short field.

Mariota, who took the first series, completed 1-of-2 pass attempts for 21 yards on a scoring drive capped by a 1-yard Trey Sermon touchdown plunge.

Tanner McKee

GETTY IMAGES: Rookie QB Tanner McKee, a sixth-rounder, showed again why he should make the 53-man roster.

Let’s get on with the observations.

* After trying running back Trey Sermon at kick returner the past two games, the Eagles gave the nod to wide receiver Devon Allen to start the game. After an initial bobble, Allen started to his left before pivoting and finding a crease down the right sideline for 73 yards. Rookie free-agent cornerback Eli Ricks acted as an escort, paving the way for Allen.

* In his lone series, Marcus Mariota on third-down delivered a strike for 21 yards in a tight window to wide receiver Deon Cain. Colts cornerback Dallis Flowers supplied good coverage but got beat anyway. The drive was capped by a 1-yard Sermon touchdown run, his third of the preseason.

* Cain, who had an uneven showing against the Browns, had a productive first quarter, reeling in both targets for 33 yards. He finished the opening frame with six receptions for 62 yards on eight targets.

* Sticky coverage from rookie free agent cornerback Mekhi Garner on a deep shot down the left sideline to Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce on the Colts’ first offensive play.

* Veteran LB Nicholas Morrow, starting alongside Christian Elliss, made a nice play early, knifing through to drop Colts running back Deon Jackson for a 2-yard loss.

* The first-team kickoff unit included S Justin Evans, CB Kelee Ringo, CB Mekhi Garner, S K’Von Wallace, TE Brady Russell, and LBs Patrick Johnson and Ben VanSumeren.

* It was notable that Morrow wasn’t on the first-team kickoff unit. As a depth linebacker, special teams contributions are typically a requirement.

* On a 4th-and-2, rookie QB Tanner McKee delivered a quick strike to WR Joseph Ngata, who dropped the pass. The Colts regained possession at their own 48. Tough drop for Ngata, who has largely petered out after a fast start to camp.

* Yes, he was playing against Eagles reserves, but Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson is an explosive talent. Hardly a finished product, but Richardson has the talent and dual-threat ability to be special.

* Nice touch pass from McKee on a wheel route to Sermon for 14 yards down the right sideline, with linebacker Zaire Franklin trailing. Sermon has made noticeable strides as a pass-catcher this summer.

*Watching CB Mekhi Garner, one thing that really stood out is just how physical he is, both in coverage and coming up to stick someone. His physicality worked against him on a 1st-and-10 inside the red zone in the second quarter, when he was penalized five yards for illegal contact, but the Eagles have something there. Not sure if it’s the 53, but I think Garner has translatable traits worth developing on the practice squad.

* As a 2023 fourth-round pick, Kelee Ringo’s spot on the 53 was never in jeopardy. However, I’ve seen enough to know he’s far from contributing. I anticipate Ringo beginning the season as a weekly inactive.

* On a 2nd-and-4 from the Philadelphia 44, Richardson lofted a pinpoint 17-yard pass – over the outstretched hands of Eagles LB Ben VanSumeren  – to TE Kylen Granson. VanSumeren had an active first-half, including four tackles.

* On a subsequent 3rd-and-11 – on the same drive – VanSumeren burst up the middle untouched and had Richardson dead to rights, but the slippery Colts quarterback eluded the pressure and instead turned it into a 5-yard pickup.

* It became more and more apparent throughout the preseason that Ngata struggles to separate. In my pre-draft evaluation, I’d noted that sluggish release and restricted separation would be his primary drawback at the pro level. His struggles continued late in the second, when he coughed up a 9-yard pass, returning possession to the Colts at their own 17. His early summer ascent just hasn’t translated in game situations.

* RB Kennedy Brooks hasn’t had many opportunities this preseason to touch the football and dropped a perfectly placed throw from McKee on a 2nd-and-6. Would have been a nice pickup, if not a touchdown.

* CB Eli Ricks had a really strong first half. He more than held his own against Colts starting WRs Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce on multiple occasions. Perhaps his most notable play came on 2nd-and-17 with 48 seconds until the break, when he swarmed Pierce, getting his hand in to defend the pass. The rookie free agent didn’t appear to be fazed by the moment. I’m still not sure there’s a spot on the 53 for Ricks, as the team values practices/joint practices above all. However, he’s made things interesting.

* Impressive performance by Devon Allen on special teams. In addition to his four kickoff returns for 127 yards, Allen also shined as a gunner, dropping Colts returner Amari Rodgers for no gain at the Indy 23.

* It sure feels like the Eagles remain unsettled in terms of finding a partner for S Reed Blankenship. Safety would be a position I’d think the team would look to enhance in the coming week.

* He’s a long shot to stick in any capacity, but newly signed linebacker Tyreek Maddox-Williams – a South Jersey native – had some good moments, registering seven tackles (one for loss), two passes defended, and a interception in which he returned for a 42-yard touchdown. Regardless, Maddox-Williams put some good tape out there.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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