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August 23, 2018

Final observations: Browns 5, Eagles 0

The Eagles lost a football game 5-0 to the Cleveland Browns. That sentence was painful to write, topped only by the experience of everyone who sat through to the end of this circus of suck.

But look, there were things to write about in spite of the ineptitude, so gather round as we hit the high notes.

The Good

• Cameron Johnston punted a ball 60 yards. That's pretty cool and good.

• I'm not sure if there's a spot on the roster for DeAndre Carter or not, but with a chance to make a big impression on Thursday night he did his best to produce and show versatility with extended reps on offense and special teams.

The latter is arguably more important for a guy like Carter, since he would really only be thrust into action as a receiver if there were injuries at the top of the depth chart. And with reps as a return man against Cleveland, Carter did a pretty stellar job earning the Eagles good field position, including one particularly healthy return in the middle of the third quarter.

He wasn't half bad on the outside, either, and he helped Nick Foles complete his longest pass of the game in Philadelphia's only decent drive of the first half with a nice backtrack on a throw down the sideline.

Is any of that enough to survive the looming roster cut? Probably not, unless the Eagles decide to carry six wideouts for some reason. Good on him for using the opportunity to shine, though.

• Consistency is still an issue for Josh Sweat, but you can see exactly why he was such a highly-rated prospect/recruit prior to health issues slowing him down. The athletic talent pops off the screen when he's able to create separation on the edge, and he can turn that window of space into a stop in the backfield real quick.

• Avonte Maddox has been given plenty of first-team reps at nickel corner throughout camp, quickly earning the trust of the coaching staff in his first preseason with the team. With the offense sputtering deep into the game, the Pittsburgh product came up with an interception after a Nate Gerry chip (and great pressure up front) threw off Baker Mayfield's timing.

The only complaint I have with this play? You got to take that to the house, man! Maddox runs in the 4.4 40-yard-dash territory and for sure has the jets to turn the corner there and go to the end zone. He was just barely brought down on the sideline, which I'm sure his teammates will chastise him for until he gets his next opportunity.

• The coaching staff admittedly sees much more of this running back group than I do, but is it crazy to think Josh Adams offers more to the Eagles as the fourth running back than Wendell Smallwood does?

The latter is the guy who got the first-team reps on Thursday night, and Adams even had to sit and watch Matt Jones barf all over the field before he got his turn. But he showed a little bit of everything against Cleveland: burst through the hole, punishing running when the Eagles needed an extra yard or two, and even some utility as a receiver out of the backfield.

In the event the Eagles actually have to go to their fourth running back, someone with that sort of versatility seems preferable to Smallwood, who might be shiftier but has never managed to turn that into real production for the Birds. Adams is big enough to carry the load if necessary, and with enough top-end speed to bust off some bigger plays, too.

The Bad

• What is there to say about an offense that looked this horrendous for the majority of the game? It wasn't just that the Eagles turned it over (check), it wasn't just that they couldn't score (check), it wasn't just that they couldn't string together first downs (check), it was that they hit every possible threshold of ineptitude over the course of 60 minutes, and couldn't get anything going for most of that timeframe.

It's reasonable enough to chalk this up to gameplan decisions. The Eagles stand to gain very little by running anything unique or exotic in the preseason, so they're going to run the vanilla offense for long stretches of these games. Even still, they should be able to execute at a way higher level than they did on Thursday night, and Doug Pederson was right to be ticked off at the end of the first half. 

Give the defense credit for holding things together and giving the Eagles a chance to hang around longer than they had any business to. But that was an unacceptable night from the offense, regardless of who is missing and who is going to reinforce the group once the regular season begins.

• Along those lines — it really was a shame that Nate Sudfeld's beautiful throw to Rashard Davis was wasted, because this was a straight up dime.

Shame on you, Mr. Davis. Get that second toe down next time.

• Death, takes, Jake Elliott missing chip-shot kicks while making almost everything from distance. Completely inexplicable. 

The Ugly

• Look, I've already written enough about that ghastly offensive performance and this game in general. Leave me alone.

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