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August 17, 2023

Five things to watch in the Eagles-Browns preseason game

Here's what Jimmy will be watching when the Eagles and Browns kick off tonight.

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6.1.23_EaglesSydney-Brown_ColleenClaggett-9588.jpg Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Sydney Brown (21)

The Philadelphia Eagles will play their second preseason game Thursday night in Philly against the Browns, who have practiced with the Eagles over the last few days. Here are our five things to watch.

1) Will Nakobe Dean play? In the Eagles' first preseason game against the Ravens, the majority of the team's starters did not play, and that included Dean, who missed about a week of training camp with an ankle injury but was a full participant in a practice two days before that game. Dean played just 34 snaps in the regular defense as a rookie and he has not been an obvious standout this summer in training camp, so it was anticipated that he would get some work in during the preseason games. 

Despite his inexperience at the pro level, Dean is the Eagles' top linebacker, which is very clearly the most tenuous positional group on an otherwise loaded roster. He could put some minds at ease if he participates in this game and makes a play or two.

2) The running backs: In the first game against the Ravens, D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny each got some work, while Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott got the night off. Over-analysis from the fantasy football community ensued. Postgame, Nick Sirianni explained his usage of the backs. Transcription via Zach Berman of The Athletic: 

It made sense for Sirianni to get Swift and Penny some work in the first game, since they were not on the team last year, while Gainwell and Scott were.

Against the Ravens, Swift had a very impressive run, and the Eagles quickly got him the hell out of the game.

In my opinion, Swift is the Eagles' most talented back, and probably by a significant margin. I'll be curious to see if the Eagles play him at all the rest of the preseason.

3) Sydney Brown: Brown had nine tackles in the first preseason game and he got a lot of playing time with the first-team defense during joint practices with the Browns. He appears to be making a late push for a starting job at safety opposite Reed Blankenship. Another impressive performance on Thursday night could go a long way toward helping him earn a starting role.

4) Tanner McKee: Last year, Jalen Hurts played in the first preseason game, which was against the Jets. On the Eagles' opening drive, he went 6 for 6 for 80 yards and TD pass to Dallas Goedert, for a perfect QB rating of 158.3. And that was it for him the rest of the preseason. It is still to be determined if Hurts will play in the preseason this year, but I doubt it.

My guess is that Marcus Mariota will start, and then most of the game will be played by McKee, who had a very encouraging preseason debut Saturday night against the Ravens. You can re-watch all of McKee's throws in that game here. We might also see some pointless snaps from Ian Book in the fourth quarter.

If McKee can continue to play like he did Week 1, he can maybe be an extremely cheap primary backup to Hurts in 2024, 2025, and 2026. Or perhaps even better for the Eagles, they could potentially maximize their return on investment via trade at some point along the way. Preseason game No. 2 will be just another step in that evaluation, but they may as well get him as many competitive reps as possible while they still can. 

5) Deshaun Watson: There was a time when the Eagles wanted to trade for Watson and make him their franchise quarterback, but they were fortunate that their interest was not reciprocated. After failed attempts to land Watson and Russell Wilson, the Eagles settled on Hurts as their quarterback in 2022, and he, well, you know the rest. On Wednesday, Watson responded to an opinion of his play during joint practices.

Lol, amazing. Can you imagine Jalen Hurts reacting this way to commentary from a reporter from another city, FROM A PRACTICE?!? 

I'm convinced that Watson would have never made it Philly, and it'll always be interesting to me to watch the rest of his career unfold, wondering what might have been if he landed here instead of Cleveland.

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