They had two days of joint practices with each other, and now it's on to a preseason game for the Eagles and Cleveland Browns tonight (7:30 PM kickoff, NBC10 locally, NFL Network) at Lincoln Financial Field. What's at stake?
A lot, of course.
There are position battles and roster spots to be won with fewer than two weeks to go (on August 29, to be precise) before the Eagles, like the rest of the NFL, reduce the roster from 90 players to 53. With that in mind, here are some things to watch in Preseason Game No. 2 ...
1. The Running Back Work
Head Coach Nick Sirianni used D'Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Trey Sermon, and Kennedy Brooks at running back in the first preseason game and rested Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Sirianni has said that he wants his running backs to get tackled once or twice or a bit more in the course of the preseason to prepare for the regular season, so it's possible that Gainwell and Scott get some game action against Cleveland to make sure they are ready to go for September 10 and the start of the regular season in New England.
This is a group that Sirianni has touted since the spring and all have had their moments since Training Camp opened. How many backs will the Eagles keep on the 53-man roster? History says four is about the right number, but there is nothing certain about that.
2. Sorting It Out Among The Pass Catchers
A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, we know about them. They are stars. Quez Watkins has had a standout summer and is slowed now by a hamstring injury, but it's nothing that is expected to linger into the regular season. Britain Covey has been sidelined of late with a hamstring injury. The Eagles like what they've seen from Olamide Zaccheaus in terms of his blocking, short-area burst, and receiving, so what about after those four? Tyrie Cleveland had a strong game in Baltimore and has followed up with good practices against Cleveland. Same with Greg Ward. Devon Allen, Jadon Haselwood, Johnny King, and Joseph Ngata are looking for some big-play opportunities against the Browns.
3. More Reps For The QB Room
The more reps, the better. Jalen Hurts looked outstanding against Cleveland, particularly on Tuesday, and it isn't clear that he will play in this game (perhaps unlikely, even). Marcus Mariota, Ian Book, and Tanner McKee are in line to get some key playing time against a good, aggressive, and physical Cleveland defense.
4. Who Wins Jobs Along The O-Line?
The Eagles have a very strong offensive line room and there are some competitive battles going on to make the roster here. The starters are not likely to play after two physical days against Cleveland, so it could be a night off for Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens, and Lane Johnson. We'll see the rest of them, with backup spots up for grabs.
5. Making Sense At Linebacker
Nakobe Dean is healthy and practiced well against Cleveland and he could see his first preseason action of the year and, quite frankly, it's possible that all of the linebackers – save Haason Reddick – will see playing time. Veterans Nicholas Morrow, Myles Jack, and Zach Cunningham are still learning the system, rookie Nolan Smith is hard to keep off the field, and Christian Elliss is hoping to continue his strong summer.
6. Young Corners Making Their Move
Josh Jobe has taken a lot of reps and seems to be playing good football throughout the month – he ended Tuesday's joint practice with an interception – and fourth-round draft pick Kelee Ringo continues his development. Those two players, plus a handful of others, including former Brown Greedy Williams, should see action as the Eagles work through a young and talented room and find the five or six (just guessing at a roster number there) who will make the 53-man roster.
7. Rotation Continues At Safety
A bunch of guys are gaining first-team reps as the Eagles continue to work on combinations at safety. Reed Blankenship had three interceptions in two days of practice against Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson and has probably stood out the most from the group. Everyone else has played well and will continue to get game time and we'll see how this position sorts itself out. No doubt though, K'Von Wallace and Terrell Edmunds and Justin Evans and rookie Sydney Brown have stepped up to make for a series of difficult decisions for the coaching staff and Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman, and that's how a team wants it to be.
Day 2 of joint practices with the Browns had some great moments! Check them out now.