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The Ravens still have their stupid little winning streak, and the Eagles have a lot of positives after their preseason opener in Baltimore.
The Eagles opened their three-game 2023 preseason with a 20-19 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens extended their NFL-record preseason winning streak to 24 straight games.
Here’s our 10 Instant Observations a month before the real opening day.
1. The biggest thing I was looking for Saturday night was how Brian Johnson called the game, and the ultimate test will be the regular season because nobody is gameplanning for preseason games, the starters weren’t playing and everybody is vanilla this time of year. Still, I liked what I saw. Forget who was playing and look at what the Eagles were able to do on offense. The Eagles piled up 271 yards and had four scoring opportunities in the first half (touchdown, two field goals, missed field goal) against a team that desperately tries to win every preseason game and with a rookie 6th-round pick playing , and we saw guys getting open in the passing game, running backs making plays on the ground and a unit that was able to keep the Ravens off balance. This was the first NFL game Johnson has ever called, and he’s got one heck of an act to follow in Shane Steichen, but it was certainly an auspicious debut for the Eagles’ new offensive coordinator.
2. How about Jalen Carter? Yikes. On his first snap of the game – the first snap of his NFL career – Carter blew past Ben Cleveland, his former Georgia teammate – for an unchallenged pressure on Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson on a 3rd-and-10 in the first quarter. Carter flushed Johnson out of the pocket into the path of Derek Barnett, forcing the veteran QB to throw the ball away. His first snap. He is going to be scary.
3. I don’t need to see D’Andre Swift again until opening day. Honestly, I didn’t need to see him Saturday night. He’s been so good both running and catching the ball, and he gave us a brief glimpse with that slippery 22-yard run in the first quarter. There are definitely questions at running back, but for me they involve Rashaad Penny, Boston Scott and Trey Sermon. Kenny Gainwell and Swift are co-starters as far as I’m concerned. Gainwell didn’t play Saturday night, but Swift in his cameo showed why the Eagles are so excited about him. And wait till you see him catch the ball. He’s as much of a playmaker in the receiving game than the ground game.
4. Awfully impressed by rookie 6th-round quarterback Tanner McKee, who just started looking comfortable at practice the last few days and was able to transfer that into his first NFL game. McKee actually delivered the ball more accurately Saturday night than he has all summer. The Eagles have a better-than-usual group of 2nd– and 3rd-team receivers, and McKee made some really nice throws to Tyrie Cleveland, Joseph Ngata and newcomer Johnny King. He engineered an eight-play, 43-yard field goal drive on the first drive of his career and then followed that with an 11-play, 73-yard TD drive. I really like how vertical McKee was. He really drove the ball down the field – 27 and 18 yards to Tyrie Cleveland, 33 yards to Johnny King, 19 yards to Jadon Haselwood, 31 yards to Joseph Ngata, although that one was negated by a penalty on Ngata – and just looked very comfortable running the operation. McKee finished 10-for-20 for 148 yards with no TDs or INTs, and the 3rd-team o-line and a couple of his WRs didn’t do him any favors in the second half, but it was still a promising debut. Ian Book – a 4th-round pick in New Orleans – was out there with a bunch of deep backups, but he had a catastrophic evening – minus-10 net passing yards on three drives and an INT on a two-point conversion. I’ve seen enough. McKee is QB3.
5. All the safety candidates did some good things, and that competition for the second starting spot across from Reid Blankenship is getting really interesting. Terrell Edmunds had a sack and tackle for loss, K’Von Wallace was very active with five tackles, rookie Sydney Brown had four tackles and even Justin Evans – who’s been barely noticeable at training camp – had a couple big hits. I still think Edmunds is the leading candidate, but it’s a crowded field, and none of those guys hurt themselves in Baltimore.
6. Kelee Ringo has a ways to go, but I saw one thing I loved from him Saturday night. When Ravens running back Justice Hill burst free for a long gain down the right sideline at the end of the first quarter, it looked like he had a chance to take it to the house. But Ringo ran across the field, made up a ton of ground and was able to bring Hill down at the 16-yard-line. The Ravens did get a touchdown there, but that’s the kind of hustle that often goes unnoticed and it’s the type of thing you look for from young players. Ringo battles at corner and makes some big plays, but he still needs to be more consistent. But the play he made on Hill says a lot about Ringo.
7. Eli Ricks has not had a very good training camp, but that 31-yard pick-6 off Ravens QB Anthony Brown is the type of thing that really gets the coaches’ attention. Ricks’ pick-6 – the first by an Eagle in the preseason since Mychal Kendricks off Dolphins QB Matt Moore in 2017 – was a nice read. He followed it up with a pass breakup on third down on the Ravens’ next drive. Ricks is a fascinating story. He was once projected as a 1st-round pick but after transferring from LSU to Alabama and playing just one year in Tuscaloosa, he declared for the draft and went undrafted. Howie Roseman snagged him as an undrafted rookie and here we are. Ricks is still on the outside looking in, but he sure helped himself Saturday night.
8. Very tough day for Greedy Williams. The 4th-year corner hasn’t had a very good training camp, and he struggled Saturday night vs. some bottom-of-the-roster guys. He also whiffed on a tackle just before halftime, allowing Laquon Treadwell to get out of bounds and stop the clock, which gave Justin Tucker a chance to attempt (and make) a 60-yard field goal. Williams, a 2nd-round pick in 2019, has started 21 games the last few years, but I don’t see any way he’s making this team. Josh Jobe and Ringo are going to be the backups outside and Zech McPhearson the backup slot.
9. Tyler Steen worked at both left tackle and right guard and had some really impressive reps. The rookie 3rd-round pick really looks like a tackle and you can see improvement just from the start of camp three weeks ago. He’s 6-foot-6, 315 pounds and showed his power and technique on a number of snaps. To see a 23-year-old rookie show the ability to learn two very different positions to the point where he can go out and look comfortable at both is unusual. For Steen to be able to handle both positions in his first NFL game is a really good sign.
10. How do you not love Greg Ward? He’s now in his seventh Eagles training camp since joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 2017, he’s been released eight times, he’s been on the practice squad for two Super Bowl teams and he’s still out there grinding, working as hard as ever, making plays when he gets the chance. I don’t know where or how or if Ward fits in anywhere on this team. He’s 28 and probably about 10th on the depth chart. But if it was my call and he didn’t get any offers anywhere else? I’d keep him around on the practice squad. He’s not fast, he’s not big, he’s just a guy I feel like I can always trust in any situation if he has to play. Ward caught five passes for 53 yards in the first half Saturday night and it sure didn’t look like it was his first game of any sort since late in 2021 (he missed all of last year’s training camp). Marcus Mariota likes throwing to Ward, and why wouldn’t he? Ward is always in the right place and catches everything. Ward led the Eagles with 53 catches in 2020 when everyone else was hurt, and the only position players on the roster who’ve been here longer are Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson. Ward will never be a star, but in my book he’s a true Eagle.