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August 12, 2023

First half observations: Eagles 13, Ravens 10

Everything you need to know about the Eagles' first-half performance against the Ravens in their opening preseason game.

BALTIMORE, MD — In their preseason opener down in Baltimore, the Eagles are up 13-10 on the Ravens at halftime. I'm here with my running first-half observations. Stay tuned to PhillyVoice throughout the night because I will have them for the second half, too. 

My overall suggestion for Eagles fans when it comes to any training camp or preseason performance: if it's good, have fun and celebrate. If it's bad, immediately forget it.

Let's get after it...

The Good

Jalen Hurts dressed for the game, but did not play, meaning he will be leaving Baltimore healthy and in one piece. Regardless of the final score, that's the most important aspect of the evening for the Eagles. 

Marcus Mariota turned a 3rd and 13 into a 14-yard run for a first down on the opening drive. Somewhere on UCLA's campus, a tear runs down Chip Kelly's face.

• On the very next play D'Andre Swift had a nifty juke move and then used the truck stick on a Ravens defender for a gain of 22. He looks good. Throw him in bubble wrap for the rest of the game! 

Jalen Carter got his first major contribution as an Eagle: a quarterback hurry/hit on third down on the Ravens' opening drive. His first step off the ball was nasty, forcing an incompletion from QB Josh Johnson. Ravens center Ben Cleveland got completely turned in just a couple of seconds. Carter's got the goods. 

Greg Ward reminds me of a quad-A baseball outfielder. He isn't good enough to get real snaps at wideout on a contending Eagles team, but he's way too good for preseason competition with his veteran experience. Mariota's best throw of the summer came on a deep ball to Ward early in camp and that connection continued several times in the first quarter. Ward later limped off the field after a 17-yard pickup on a fourth and one late in the second quarter. 

Tanner McKee's first NFL pass: A high-arcing drop perfectly placed to Tyrie Cleveland for a 27-yard gain. That looked better than anything he's done thus far in summer ball! He continued with a couple of nice throws to Cleveland and undrafted rookie Joseph Ngata. He one-upped himself with a third down strike to Deion Cain that put the Eagles in Ravens territory with six minutes remaining in the first half. The Eagles' ideal developmental scenario for McKee is that the Stanford product turns into the team's QB2 in 2024 and beyond on a cheap Day 3 contract. 

The McKee drive continued on, with yet another pitch and catch between McKee and Cleveland that put the Birds in a goal-to-go situation, easily setting up Trey Sermon for a touchdown run on the following play. There's a shot that Eagles fans are in for an entertaining preseason if their QB3 can sling it like this!

Mario Goodrich with a nice PBU deep down the seam on the Ravens' final drive. Great rep. That cornerback room is crowded with young players trying to scrap their way onto the roster. Plays like that from Goodrich make a hell of a difference when the team is making cuts. 

The Bad

Nakobe Dean also didn't dress. Get healthy, sure, but I would like to see some positive notes from the dude before Week 1 rolls around. He played 34 defensive snaps in 2022 and has missed a good chunk of camp with injuries. A drive of live action would have been nice. 

• Mariota tossed a few rough throws on that opening drive to go with those successful linkups with Ward. His passing ability is so iffy. He never quite developed as a pro passer. That's why he's one of the game's best backup QBs and not a low-end starter! If Mariota has to start a game of consequence this fall, the Eagles should install a souped-up version of the 2021 offense. Just run power left and power right with the quarterback like they're the 1928 Pottsville Maroons.

• To end the first quarter, Ravens running back Justice Hill ripped off a 37-yard gain, popping outside after he had nowhere to run inside. Cleveland stoned Derek Barnett crashing down from the back side. Christian Elliss couldn't shed a tight end's block to initially stifle Hill before he went outside. Carter, Milton Williams and Jordan Davis were on the field for that one, too. The run defense overall was uneven from the front seven. 

• On the Eagles' second-quarter kickoff following their second field goal of the evening, rookie safety Sydney Brown flew down the field on kick coverage, but couldn't make the tackle on the Baltimore returner. That's been the vibe from Brown during camp at this point. He's energetic with great athleticism and ready to lay the wood on somebody, but he hasn't quite made any eye-popping plays yet. The Eagles' safety spot behind Reed Blankenship continues to be undefined. 

The Neutral

• For the ongoing debate about how the Eagles will use their running back group, neither Boston Scott nor Kenny Gainwell dressed for tonight's game. I've written that the team has used Gainwell like an early down back throughout camp, but I wouldn't read too deep into this. Gainwell and Scott are heading into their third season in this offense. Swift and Rashaad Penny are the newcomers. Get acclimated. 

• Most random piece of Philly sports apparel I saw in the crowd at M&T Bank Field: a Phillies St. Patrick's Day-themed Roy Halladay shirsey. An Eagles-themed choice? Someone wearing a midnight green Jon Runyan jersey. 

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