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August 18, 2023

Final observations: Eagles 18, Browns 18

Everything you need to know about the Eagles' performance against the Browns in their second preseason game, including Tanner McKee's big night.

If you're reading about fourth-quarter preseason observations at 11 p.m. on a weeknight, I absolutely love you. Here are my second-half takes from the Eagles' 18-18 tie against the Cleveland Browns:

The Highs

• The first pass from Tanner McKee on Thursday night? A 12-yard out to Joseph Ngata for a first down. Up to that point, it was the best throw from an Eagles quarterback all evening. On the Eagles' opening scoring drive, McKee was 2-for-2 for 27 yards and a quarterback rating of 118.8. 

McKee followed that up with a nice throw on the next drive that should've been a chunk pickup, but Deon Cain couldn't come down with the ball. McKee then threw a beautiful ball to Tyrie Cleveland that was also catchable, but it fell incomplete. 

In the fourth, McKee had a great 36-yard strike to an open-as-anything Tyree Jackson. It was right on the money to Jackson in stride so he could pick up that YAC. 

On the ensuing drive, he had a perfectly lofted ball down the left sideline to Ngata for a 17-yard gain. Back shoulder throw. Boom. 

McKee keeps getting it done when presented with the opportunity!

I can't remember an Eagles third-string QB looking this good in a single summer.

Jalen Hurts missed two games of consequence last season in back-to-back weeks. The Birds went 0-2 in those games and were lucky that Hurts played so unbelievably to start the season that it didn't ruin their pursuit of home-field advantage. I crushed the first-half performance from Marcus Mariota, but I'd probably start him with a week of preparation if Hurts misses time. He would have a super short leash though and I wouldn't hesitate to start McKee the following week or even inserting McKee out there with an in-game benching. 

Trey Sermon fumbled in the first half, but had some juice on a 33-yard touchdown run on the Birds' first drive of the third quarter:

I still don't see the Eagles keeping five backs on the initial 53-man roster though. It's silly for the Eagles to keep up the facade of listing Sermon as one of the five potential starters at running back. I don't believe there's been enough tape out there of Sermon for another team to claim him off waivers if he's cut. He's a more-than-solid practice squad RB. 

Zach Cunningham with a nice run stuff early in the third quarter to force a Cleveland third-and-14. Of the two recent linebacker signings, Cunningham has flashed more in games and in practice than Myles Jack. I'd lean toward Christian Elliss being the better choice for the second linebacker spot behind Nakobe Dean, but that could change in a hurry. 

Moro Ojomo had a great rush as a five-tech defensive lineman in the third quarter that came with a big hit on Browns quarterback Kellen Mond. I've dug what I've seen from the seventh-round rookie all summer long. He left the field on a stretch in the fourth quarter with a neck injury. The team announced he has movement in all his extremities. That's so tough for an unheralded guy who really showcased some promise in camp and in the preseason. 

The Lows

• A 50 percent full Lincoln Financial Field crowd did the wave all throughout an injury timeout while Tyrie Cleveland was being strapped down and put on a stretcher to be carted off with a neck injury. You shouldn't be doing the wave at all at a football game to begin with, but this felt really weird given the situation. 👎

The crowd then partially cheered in an encouraging fashion after Cleveland was stabilized and finally carted off.

I always love the crowds at the Linc. Strange behavior. 

• Lots of injuries on Thursday, including, but not limited to, Nolan SmithOlamide ZaccheausZech McPhearsonCleveland and Ojomo. Rough. And you wonder why NFL teams don't want these meaningless games anymore, valuing the controlled setting of joint practices in the summer over this setup.

The Whoas

• The legend of Tanner McKee grows with a 22-yard touchdown toss to Brady Russell and a two-point conversion pass to Johnny King that knotted things up at 18 in the fourth quarter:

McKee's final stat line: 10/18, 147 yards, 1 TD, 1 two-point conversion throw, 100.9 QB rating

Philadelphia loves a quarterback debate. They'll have to settle for a backup QB debate this season. After my "Philosophy of the Eagles' quarterback factory" story from last Sunday, expect another QB factory/backup QB read from me in the near future. 

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