August 11, 2023
Are you ready for preseason football? No? Well, it's arriving all the same even if you're not. The Eagles have their first actual game since Super Bowl LVII on Saturday night at 7 p.m. against the Ravens in Baltimore. If you're not in total football mode yet, here's to hoping my juicy over/unders can give you that energy. I'll set five over/unders for the matchup. To note, these are not actual gambling lines from a sportsbook. I just made them all up myself for fun.
Let's get to them...
Before Thursday's practice, Nick Sirianni predictably deflected any questions about training camp playing time.
Nick Sirianni said he doesn’t have to make a decision yet when asked how long the starters will play in the preseason opener.— shamus (@shamus_clancy) August 10, 2023
stays mum on any preseason playing time questions. pic.twitter.com/vrPxGkBWH3
He went on to mention that the Eagles' upcoming joint practices with the Browns next week will play a role when it comes to how much they'll play their top guys in Baltimore. It's increasingly clear around the league that teams value these joint practices more than the preseason. The Eagles have two of those sessions this month in South Philly against Cleveland and Indianapolis.
I don't even know if Jalen Hurts will suit up. If he does and he actually plays a series, it feels more likely than not that the team runs three-straight handoffs just to get him off the field as soon as possible. I'll go under.
The Eagles are more cautious during the preseason than ever. No team values the backup position more in the NFL and they treat their QB2 as a key cog on their roster. I don't think Marcus Mariota will play that much, but for all those Eagles fans who were dreaming of the Oregon quarterback before the 2015 draft, seeing Mariota break off a couple of runs is about as entertaining as the preseason gets.
Perhaps I'm setting the line too high here, but, whatever, I'll take the slight under.
We have five candidates on this one: Nolan Smith, Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean and Kelee Ringo. That order is how I'd rank the guy most likely to pick up a sack. Smith has been the best former Bulldog in camp this summer and is looking good against experienced Eagles offensive linemen with a killer speed rush. Going against the Ravens' third-team OL might be easy work for him.
We'll see how the reps play out for Carter and Davis as they are positioning for starting roles, but they, of course, have a chance as well. Maybe Dean even has a blitz opportunity! I'll hit the over.
Following in the Hank Baskett/Paul Turner mode, undrafted rookie wide receiver Joseph Ngata has made a name for himself in training camp. The Eagles should really consider keeping Ngata on their roster as their No. 6 wideout. He was their highest paid undrafted player and I'm not positive he'd make it through waivers in order to land on their practice squad. In Thursday's practice at the NovaCare Complex, he even received some first-team offense reps in 7-on-7s in the red zone.
Ngata's built a rapport with Mariota during camp. Mariota struggled earlier this summer, but with a switch at second-team center from Brett Toth to Josh Andrews, Mariota is on the upswing. That's coincided with Ngata hauling in more and more passes in practice. Ngata feels built for preseason success as he tries to establish himself as a legitimate NFL player.
I'm banking on him leading the team in receiving yards on Saturday, though I expect the offense to pretty intentionally be bland and sort of inept. I'll go over.
As for the TV broadcast on NBC10, the on-field preseason action isn't too lively, so filling air time with little anecdotes will probably happen. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, working as the Eagles' special teams coordinator from 1998 to 2006 and their defensive backs coach in 2007. He won a Super Bowl before Reid did, one of the two former Reid assistants to do so with the other being, of course, Doug Pederson.
Maybe we'll get a nice coaching tree graphic, too. I'm going over!
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