Good morning, Eagles fans! The third preseason game was a disappointing one for the Eagles as they fell to the Browns in Cleveland by an unusual score of 5-0 and dropped to 0-3 in the preseason. The defense impressed but turnovers plagued the first-team offense that couldn't seem to find a rhythm. The Eagles are off on Friday but will return to the NovaCare Complex for team meetings Saturday and practice on Sunday ahead of the final preseason game of 2018 against the New York Jets next Thursday night. Here is what you need to know from last night's loss in the Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft.
1. Nick Foles, Offense Struggle Again
Nick Foles and the first team offense couldn't muster much on Thursday night, turning the ball on four straight possessions in the first half after a turnover on downs and a safety. Foles connected on 13 of 17 passes for 127 yards but also threw two interceptions and tripped in the end zone to cause that safety in one half of work.
It was a forgettable night for Foles and the first-team offense in what should have been the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more on the tough offensive night:
"I'm just making some mistakes. It's as simple as that," Foles said. "I've got to keep being critical of myself, watch some film, understand what's going on. I have to keep playing, going through it. Obviously, I haven't been myself and I expect a lot of myself but I've got to keep looking at it, keep learning.
"I've played this game a long time so I know how to address this and just keep moving forward, keeping that positive outlook."
Check out all of the best photos from Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 23, 2018.
2. Wendell Smallwood Stands Out
Thursday's game was an important night for the Eagles' running back situation. With Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles all sitting out in Cleveland, the battle for the fourth running back spot was on full display as Wendell Smallwood, Josh Adams, and Matt Jones took all of the rushing reps.
Out of the three, Smallwood was the most productive, leading the team with 53 yards on 12 carries and adding 14 yards receiving. Alex Smith has more on the important night for the third-year back:
"Just watching film all week, I knew those holes would come open," Smallwood said after the game. "Just knowing how their defense plays, sometimes they're going to stop us, but I think just me being patient and waiting for it and just sticking to my rules, it started working out for us. When we got on our tempo, I think those guys started wearing down a little bit. The holes were there."
3. DeAndre Carter Turns Heads
Wide receiver DeAndre Carter was signed by the Eagles in the midst of Training Camp in late July. The Sacramento State product has played for four other teams since entering the NFL in 2015 but has never spent time on an active roster. He was seen as a long shot to make the Eagles' 53-man roster.
But with four wide receivers sitting out Thursday in Cleveland, Carter capitalized on his opportunity and opened eyes with an impressive performance. The 5-8, 190-pound receiver led the team with four receptions for 73 yards. He also fielded four punts, returning one 29 yards. I wrote more on Carter's standout night:
"It's a blessing," Carter told reporters in the locker after the game Thursday night. "I'm just trying to take advantage of my opportunity, do what's asked of me by my coaches, and make as many plays as I can."
4. Defense Stands Tall
A bright spot for the Eagles in an otherwise forgettable game was the play of the defense which only allowed three points all night. Despite being faced with consistent tough field position as a result of first-half turnovers, the first-team defense found a way to keep the Eagles in the game with clutch stops.
Midway through the first quarter, the Browns drove down to the Eagles' 1-yard line with a first-and-goal. The Eagles' defense responded with four straight stops, keeping the Browns off the scoreboard and giving the ball back to the offense. Dave Spadaro has more on that goal-line stand and the defense's impressive night as a whole:
"I think we were definitely pleased with some of the situational plays that we had, being in a sudden change (turnover), being backed up on the goal line, those were real positives," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "But we put ourselves in those field goal situations with some missed tackles and big runs. We pride ourselves in stopping the run and we gave up a few here and there, but definitely we're pleased in the overall performance from the ones (starters) all the way down to the end of the game. Whoever was in there kept up our standards."
5. Players of the Game
Vaughn Johnson highlighted five players who stood out in Thursday night's loss including Smallwood and Carter. In the midst of a close competition for the nickel cornerback slot, Sidney Jones got the start but Avonte Maddox shined with a game-changing play in the fourth quarter:
The rookie made the biggest play of his young career when he picked off Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in the fourth quarter and nearly returned it for a touchdown.