It closed with a thunder and lightning storm at Lincoln Financial Field with 11 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Preseason Game No. 3 against Baltimore ended in, ahem, unusual fashion, jogging memories of the 2001 season when the Ravens and Eagles preseason game at Veterans Stadium was canceled because of the unsafe playing surface at the Vet.
This time, it was Mother Nature laying down the law with Baltimore leading 26-15. The Eagles were pretty much awful in the first half, trailing 26-0 after two quarters, and then rallied in the third quarter to make it interesting. Here are some of the things I saw from the sidelines in South Philadelphia.
1. Josh McCown, given that he practiced for all of three days, was sensational in his preseason Eagles debut. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.0 yards per attempt. He compiled a passer rating of 122.2. More than that, McCown changed the protection at the line of scrimmage several times, moved well in the pocket, saw the field, and had good arm strength. If there was any question as to why the Eagles signed McCown, it was answered. He’s a good, veteran, nothing-phases-him quarterback and he was amazing on Thursday night, all things considered.
2. Corey Clement started and had his first preseason action, rushing for 25 yards on seven attempts. He was terrific in pass protection as well. Clement showed that he’s back from his knee injury. He’s going to be a valuable part of this football team. So, projecting here (not that it means anything), Clement would join Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Darren Sproles in the running back room on the 53-man roster. Will the Eagles keep a fifth back? That seems to be the question with one preseason game remaining.
3. OK, so everybody has been raving about wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and deservedly so. Featured on Thursday night, Arcega-Whiteside caught eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. He had a long of 35 yards and averaged 13 yards per reception. Nicely done.
4. It’s just a perspective from this vantage point, but Mack Hollins seems to have played his way into a favorable roster position. He caught two passes for 15 yards, including a toe-tapper on the sideline. Given his excellence on special teams, Hollins would seem to be in good position to make this team. Greg Ward caught four passes for 45 yards and continues to impress, so there is still competition going on at wide receiver.
5. Let’s talk about this Eagles Draft Class for just a moment. It remains to be seen what the group will contribute in the regular season, but they have collectively looked good in the preseason. Andre Dillard had his first rough patches with a couple of penalties at left tackle against Baltimore, but otherwise has looked smooth and efficient at the position. Sanders is just a very good football player, even as a rookie. Arcega-Whiteside has done nothing but impress. Defensive end Shareef Miller has been up and down, but he clearly has ability. Quarterback Clayton Thorson has improved so much since his early days here. Too bad he couldn’t finish out against Baltimore, but he should get some quality time against the Jets on Thursday.
6. Here is an example of good coaching: Tight end Alex Ellis signed with the Eagles on August 2 and has rapidly improved. He had a touchdown catch on Thursday night and then followed that with a terrific wham block to give Josh Adams room for a two-point conversion on the very next play and then Ellis made a play on special teams on the ensuing kickoff. Credit Ellis, of course, but also coach Justin Peelle for coaching this kid up. Well done. The coaching staff here is so very, very good.
7. Safety Rodney McLeod saw his first action of the preseason and did his part. He’s back. The next step is getting himself ready for September 8 and the regular season. McLeod had a tackle, kicked off the rust, and now can proceed with turning his attention toward Washington.
8. Cornerback Rasul Douglas missed an open-field tackle, which is notable because he just doesn’t miss many. One of the best tacklers on the team, Douglas was playing in off coverage and just was beaten on a completion to Miles Boykin that ended up going for 42 yards. Douglas doesn’t miss much.
9. Not a strong performance from quarterback Cody Kessler as the starter. He completed 3 of 5 attempts for 35 yards and didn’t get anything going with the first-team offense.
10. Baltimore had a net of -1 yard rushing the football in the first quarter. OK? The Eagles' defense is going to be very difficult to run against with the interior so strong.
Check out the best photos from the Eagles' preseason tilt against the Baltimore Ravens.
11. Jason Peters saw his first preseason action and looked terrific. The Eagles started Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Jordan Mailata along the offensive line and that group did a very nice job. Kessler just couldn’t get much of anything going in the passing game.
12. The Eagles won another challenge, making them 3-for-3 in this preseason. Love it.
13. Once again, the penalties hurt the Eagles in the first half with 12 of them for a loss of 90 yards. That’s going to improve in the regular season, but it still makes head coach Doug Pederson fume.
14. Jake Elliott hooked a 41-yard field goal attempt, a kick that he wanted back, but a rare miss through this spring and summer. Elliott has been hitting the ball solidly and the operation with Rick Lovato as the snapper and Cameron Johnston as the holder is very strong.
15. Brandon Graham made a fantastic play snuffing out a Jet Sweep that Baltimore ran – the Ravens run a complicated and difficult-to-prepare-for ground game – in the first quarter and Graham has very quietly had a strong preseason. He's all the way back from that ankle injury that plagued him last season in the early going.