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Kick Off Camp: Everything Eagles fans need to know from the preseason opener vs. Ravens

Jalen Carter
Jalen Carter

BALTIMORE – No, the Eagles were unable to snap the Ravens' 24-game preseason win streak, falling to Baltimore 20-19 on Saturday night in a highly competitive affair that went down to the wire – after rookie cornerback Eli Ricks' 31-yard pick-six with 7:03 remaining the Eagles went for two to avoid the tie and the pass was incomplete. But, after three weeks of Training Camp practices, the Eagles entered a new phase as the march to the regular season continues. The coaches and players boarded the buses to Philadelphia following the game armed with plenty of teaching tape and the understanding that the team will quickly turn the page with the Cleveland Browns coming to the NovaCare Complex for a pair of joint practices starting on Monday.

Here is a breakdown of what transpired at M&T Bank Stadium:

Marcus Mariota: 'The expectation is to be efficient'

The starters did not suit up on Saturday night as Head Coach Nick Sirianni wants to keep them fresh for the joint practices against the Browns. Quarterback Marcus Mariota got the start and after the Eagles won the coin toss – tails never fails! – the offense took the field first and got on the board right away with a Jake Elliott 45-yard field goal that spanned 55 yards in 14 plays. Mariota converted a third-and-13 with a scramble and, after hitting wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a 9-yard slant on third-and-10, faked a handoff that shook the linebacker and paved the way for the first down.

After a three-and-out by the defense, Mariota marched the Eagles down the field as a beautiful pass to wide receiver Greg Ward for 14 yards on third-and-4 put the offense in scoring range. But after back-to-back penalties moved the ball back, Elliott missed wide right from 46 yards out and Mariota's night was over.

"The expectation is to be efficient. The expectation is to be a point guard and spread the ball around and let these guys make plays," Mariota said. "That's the beautiful thing about this offense is that it gives everybody an opportunity to shine and as we continue forward in camp, we're going to get more and more comfortable. I thought our young guys came out and played with incredible effort. It was great to see."

Mariota finished 7-of-11 for 58 yards in the air, adding another 29 yards on the ground. – Chris McPherson

Tanner McKee relishes first NFL game action

Preseason is always the chance for rookies to get their first taste of NFL football. For quarterback Tanner McKee, suiting up in an Eagles uniform and taking the field was "surreal."

"Being able to play against another team, it was a really surreal moment," McKee said. "I am super excited to get every opportunity that I have."

The sixth-round draft selection out of Stanford has been working behind Jalen Hurts and Marcus Mariota at practice. Saturday night was a big chance for McKee to run the offense and show what his game is all about.

His first throw of the night was fantastic. Lined up on first-and-10 at the Eagles' 26-yard-line, McKee let one fly, lofting a perfect pass along the left sideline to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland for a gain of 27-yards. McKee would find Cleveland once more on the drive, resulting in a field goal.

"I was excited when we came out and saw that kind of coverage," McKee said. "I gave him a route and let him go up to attack the ball."

McKee and Cleveland connected four times for 59 yards. A partnership that proved successful throughout the night thanks to their work together during and after practices.

"He is an accurate passer," Head Coach Nick Sirianni said. "That is what we saw in college, and we are really excited to work with him."

"We were pretty aggressive," McKee said. "I am all for that, so I was excited."

McKee's second drive of the game resulted in a rushing touchdown by Trey Sermon. While the score was pounded home by a running back, it would not have happened without two clutch throws from the quarterback. On third-and-11, McKee found Johnny King over the middle for a 33-yard completion. A first down later, McKee found his go-to target in Cleveland for an 18-yard gain, placing the ball on the Ravens' 2-yard-line.

Situational play was a significant factor in the game plan, allowing McKee to be tested on fourth down. During the second quarter, on fourth-and-1 from their own 33-yard-line, he found Greg Ward for 17 yards on a perfectly executed run-pass option.

McKee made numerous eye-catching throws throughout the two quarters (second and third) that he played. He finished the night 10-of-20 for 140 yards. He added 7 more yards on the ground on his only rushing attempt.

McKee is slated to get a lot more reps in the two remaining preseason games and continue his development in practice. With the games against the Browns and Colts at Lincoln Financial Field, McKee will have the chance to air it out in front of the home crowd. – Owen Boyle

Rashaad Penny gets the lion's share of the workload at running back

Head Coach Nick Sirianni said after the game that he will get all of the running backs work in the preseason so they get the first hit out of the way before the games count in the standings.

On Saturday night, it was new Eagle Rashaad Penny's turn to be in the limelight as he led the team with 34 rushing yards on nine carries.

It was a special occasion since Penny had not played in a game since October 9, 2022.

"You get to walk off the field healthy and to get to go home knowing that you don't have the MRIs or anything else is a blessing," Penny said. "It was fun to get back out there."

Penny's longest run came on the first play of the Eagles' second series, a 10-yard run up the middle. The longest run of the night came from the other new Eagles running back D'Andre Swift as he shook Ravens safety Jaquon Amos on his way to a 22-yard scamper.

"I mean, as a running back group, we showed that running downhill, and you know, making big plays, making big cuts, that's what you want to see from us," Penny said. "We are all very talented and you can't do it without the offensive line. But we definitely showed a little bit of what we can do before we get to the real thing." – Chris McPherson

Pick-Six Ricks lives up to the nickname

Who was the No. 1 cornerback recruit in 2020?

He's a rookie free agent on the Eagles named Eli Ricks, who enrolled at LSU and, as a freshman, had four interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns earning the nickname "Pick-Six Ricks."

Ricks did not post such lofty stats during the rest of his college career. He transferred to Alabama for the 2022 season to get his career back on track and after coming back from an injury, started five games down the stretch for the Crimson Tide. The Eagles were the first team to call Ricks after the 2023 NFL Draft and the long corner – 6-foot-2 – decided to sign with the team.

Citing his comfort in Philadelphia due to the "family environment" that starts with Head Coach Nick Sirianni, Ricks got back to his old ways on Saturday night, intercepting an Anthony Brown touchdown and returning it 31 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that brought the Eagles within a point.

"During the first half, they repeatedly threw to the sideline, so I knew if they threw an out route that it was mine to take," Ricks said after the game. "The quarterback was throwing to the boundary, and I knew I could snag it. And if I get it, it's going to the house."

Ricks said he checked his phone after the game and he received a text from his mom, Shauna, that read, "God is good."

"I'm just hoping to build on this performance, a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but it's a great start for me," Ricks said. "I really want to make a big splash in this game, and I want to feel like I can play free." – Chris McPherson

Jalen Carter makes an impact in just 2 snaps

On his first defensive snap, first-round pick Jalen Carter did the same thing that helped the Georgia Bulldogs win back-to-back National Championships – get in the backfield and cause havoc.

Going against Ravens guard Ben Cleveland, his former college teammate, Carter used an inside move, hit quarterback Josh Johnson, and forced an incomplete pass to force a three-and-out. Carter made his presence known, even with just two snaps on the night.

"I knew it was a pass, we were in a rush front, so I'm thinking pass, really have to get off the ball," Carter said. "I felt his presence heavy to my left shoulder, so I made an inside move."

Head Coach Nick Sirianni didn't want to overload Carter since the ninth overall pick will see a lot of action against the Browns in the joint practices.

"He's working hard every day and he's had some really nice plays. He's very talented. He's just got to keep working," Sirianni said. "He has still yet to make a play in the NFL. He's got to put his head down and work."

And just like that, Carter has his introduction to the NFL, offering an appetizer of what he is capable of doing on the field.

"I've been playing football all my life, so you know it's been a moment I've just been waiting for," Carter said. "And I got here, and I'm ready to play. I've been ready for this moment all my life." – Chris McPherson

Sydney Brown leaves 'no regrets' as he leads the defense in tackles

During Training Camp practices, safety Sydney Brown has to pull up on the quarterback and can't level a receiver to make him pay for trying to get the ball.

That all changed on Saturday night as the rookie third-round pick was able to unleash his brand of football – explosive, punishing.

Brown's athleticism flashed in the preseason opener as he led the team with nine tackles, showcasing his talent on both defense and special teams. On a kickoff in the second quarter following Jake Elliott's second field goal, Brown was the first one down the field to slow down the kick returner. On the same drive, Brown was in on a draw play to help stop running back Gus Edwards from getting the first down. Later in the third quarter, Brown's hustle limited a Keaton Mitchell run to just 3 yards.

"I always play fast. I'm trying to process things mentally as fast as I can," Brown said. "If you think a minute before you play and miss that minute, you're going to miss that opportunity. I try to pull the trigger and leave no regret and just move on to the next play. If something doesn't go my way, I just move on to the next play and the next time. It's kind of hard to show that in practice, but making that tackle and wrapping up on contact is important. I'm working with the coaches, D.K. (McDonald) and Taver Johnson to dial in my technique." – Chris McPherson

Injury Update

Linebacker Shaun Bradley was carted off the field after suffering a lower-leg injury on a punt coverage play, one that led to an Eagles turnover after cornerback Mekhi Garner stripped the ball from returner James Proche and it was recovered by long snapper Rick Lovato.

Head Coach Nick Sirianni said that wide receivers Britain Covey and Quez Watkins did not play due to hamstring injuries.