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August 24, 2023

First-half observations: Colts 17, Eagles 13

Breaking down the opening half of the Eagles' preseason finale against the Colts, including Devon Allen's big opening kick return.

Eagles NFL
Devon-Allen-Eagles-Colts-Preseason Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Eagles wide receiver Devon Allen returns a kick against the Colts in the 2023 NFL preseason.

In their preseason finale, the Eagles trail the Colts 17-13 at halftime. Here are my takes from these first two quarters...

The Highs

• Marcus Mariota had his best throw of the preseason with a 21-yard strike to Deon Cain that just evaded an Indianapolis defensive back on the Eagles' first drive. It was the tightest of tight windows and Mariota showed more there than he has at any point this summer. 

• Trey Sermon had a Jerome Bettis-esque stat line on the Eagles' first drive of the evening: four carries, six yards and one touchdown. 

• Linebacker Nicholas Morrow had some nice pop on Colts running back Deon Jackson on a third-and-22 draw for a two-yard loss. If this was an actual game, this would've been a cowardly move from former Eagles offensive coordinator/new Colts head coach Shane Steichen, but in a preseason finale, it screams, "Can we just get this over with?" Morrow might be on the outside looking in when it comes to Eagles roster cutdowns, so anything that sticks out on tape is a gigantic plus for him. 

• So, what about Tanner McKee after the hype of the last few weeks? He had some rough passes that were not up to the level he established in the Eagles' first two preseason games. He had a fourth-and-three pickup to Joseph Ngata late in the second quarter. That momentum wasn't kept up with though. McKee had Kennedy Brooks open on what could've been a touchdown later on the drive, but the ball was under thrown. A decent throw on the following play to Freddie Swain fell incomplete, resulting in a field goal attempt. 

McKee was infinitely better on the penultimate drive of the half, running a makeshift two-minute drill. The Birds were cooking! He was 6-for-6 with 54 yards before Joseph Ngata had a costly fumble. Ngata impressed early in camp, but faded this summer. He's a bubble player and that type of turnover can seal a guy's fate when it comes to roster cuts.

Overall, it was a decent performance from McKee. Let's see what the second half brings before I make a definitive statement on which backup QB won the day. 

• Jake Elliott nailed a 59-yard field goal late in the first quarter. That's the most incredible kick I've ever seen him make in this stadium for sure.

• Sydney Brown had a great goal line stuff early in the second quarter. The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but correctly overturned. The dude flies to the ball. I'm expecting him to be the starting safety opposite Reed Blankenship come Week 1. 

The Lows

• Colts rookie Anthony Richardson showcased some wheels in the first quarter. He's got juice and I like him more than any other first-round quarterback. This isn't a conclusion drawn from the Eagles' third-team D, but I wonder if their defense is susceptible to mobile QBs this year. Everyone who knows a lick about football is aware that their linebacker unit is their weakest positional group. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen loom on their schedule in November and December, respectively. 

• Richardson might also be severely lacking in situational awareness for this TD celebration against guys who are getting cut on Tuesday:

The Eagles host the Colts in 2026 for those of you have who hold long grudges...

• What's up with Steichen playing his first-team offense well into the second quarter? They're a much younger team going nowhere compared to the Eagles, so maybe they want as many reps as possible, but it felt weird watching them just mow through the Birds' back-of-the-roster guys. Have we collectively gotten too soft to the point where we think it's odd that players are actually out there in a preseason game?

Nick Sirianni talked earlier this month about how before joint practices and preseason games, head coaches might talk to one another about which string unit is playing the other, etc. I wonder what the communication level was before this one. 

The Whoas

• Devon Allen's 73-yard opening kick return was the loudest Lincoln Financial Field's been during the preseason. I'd call it "electric." Perhaps Allen could have a future on an NFL roster as a returner if the league didn't essentially kill kick returns with the new fair catch rules this offseason. The Olympian, however, feels destined for the Birds' practice squad. 

• Sitting in the section in front of the press box, there was a father in his late 20s/early 30s wearing a brand new Kelly green Brian Dawkins jersey with his young son who was wearing a Kelly green Jalen Hurts. Dawkins was probably the dad's favorite player growing up and Hurts is probably the kid's favorite player. It was very pure. 

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