Devon Allen scores long TD in preseason win over Browns – NBC10 Philadelphia

Rob’s observations after the Eagles’ preseason win in Cleveland originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Bad backup defense, a game-winning touchdown from a guy who hadn’t caught a pass in six years, and a safety that finally made his presence felt.

The Eagles wrapped up their five-day stay in Northeast Ohio on Sunday with a 21-20 win over the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Here are our 10 instant observations for the second of three preseason games.

1. An underwhelming performance by the second-team defense, which allowed the Browns to drive 80 yards on eight plays for a TD on their first possession, then allowed field goals on their next two. You’d love to see this group figure out a way to stop veteran Joshua Dobbs and the Browns’ secondary offense, but as a group, they’ve seemed slow or out of sorts most of the time. Several of those guys were also on the field when the Browns opened the second half with a 75-yard TD run. We saw very little pass pressure, too many receivers running loose, and a poor defense. Yes, the Eagles are brilliant on defense and they don’t blitz or run any of their real stuff. But the Browns’ first four rushes yielded 280 yards, 139 rushing yards, 20 scores, 3-for-5 on third downs and 7.0 yards per game. And some of those guys are going to play defensive end — Nakobe Dean, Davion Taylor, K’Vaughn Wallace, Jordan Davis — and you don’t want to see them get beat that way by a 27-year-old journeyman who has thrown 17 career passes. Not alarming, but certainly disappointing.

2. Jalen Reagor hasn’t had a terrible practice, but it would be a mistake to keep Reagor instead of Deon Cain. What you saw Sunday afternoon is what Cain has been doing all summer. In the second quarter, he gained 24 and 23 yards on contested catches by Gardner Minshew and went 5-66. He has great size at 6-2, 200, has some experience — he started six games for the Colts and Steelers in 2019 — and is arguably the best of the next group behind DeVonte Smith , AJ Brown , Quese Watkins and Zak Pascal. He is simply better than Rhaegar. And it’s not close.

3. The Eagles’ first two drives really showed how deep their offensive line is. With Andre Dillard, Sua Opeta, Cam Jurgens, Jack Anderson and Jack Driscoll, the Eagles put together a 14-play, 76-yard TD drive and a 17-play, 75-yard TD drive that took about 7 1/2 minutes. They were as bright as they could be, but a tight end game is a tight end game, and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland finds a way to get everyone in his room ready to play. Those guys aren’t as good as the rookies, so they’re the backups, but they’re all smart, resilient, and physical. If they had to play important reps, you’d feel pretty good.

4. I know there has been a lot of talk about whether or not the Eagles should consider acquiring Kareem Hunt, but the Eagles are in good hands with their running back group and you saw on Sunday what Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell can do. Both of them handled the ball effectively, both got into the end zone and both moved the sticks. Jason Huntley is also more than capable. I know all about Sanders’ injury history, but since turning pro in 2017, Hunt has averaged 10 1/2 games and 842 yards a season. He hasn’t been special in a long time. Sanders? Only 11 running backs have started more games over the last three years than Sanders, so the injuries are frustrating, but part of that is just life as an NFL running back. The Eagles have a terrific linebacker with Sanders, Scott and Gainwell. I don’t want Hunt and I don’t think the Eagles do either.

5. I don’t understand what the Eagles see in Reid Sinnett. He is 25 years old, playing for his third NFL team, has never played in a regular season game, has not played well in the preseason – except for the bomb for Devon Allen — but the Eagles appear to have handed him the No. 3 job over Carson Strong — who they guaranteed $320,000 to sign here. Strong finally made his preseason debut with three minutes left and completed one pass (it was incomplete but should have been called DPI). But I’d really like to see Strong get some real preseason playing time, and I don’t see why he hasn’t already. After what he did at Nevada and the huge financial guarantee the Eagles gave him? I don’t understand.

6. It was nice to see Jaquaski Tart finally show up and make some plays. It’s been a quiet summer for Tartt, who also missed a week of practice due to personal reasons. But when he practiced, he just didn’t do much. Considering he played seven NFL seasons and started 64 games, you’d expect more. But Tartt made some spectacular plays on Sunday afternoon, including a 4thousand-and-1 on John Kelly in the fourth quarter. There are so many question marks behind Marcus Epps at safety, and the Eagles could certainly use Tart’s bottom game. It was a promising start.

7. I have yet to see anyone from that second group of outside linebackers break away. We know Darius Slay and James Bradbury are the starters, we know Avonte Maddox is the slot, and we know Zach McPherson is the third outside guy. Then there’s the whole following group – Mac McCain, Kerry Vincent, Josh Jobe, Tay Govan, Mario Goodrich, Josh Jobe and Josh Blackwell. They all did good things and they all did not so good things. None of them showed the consistency you want to see. An interesting group. All of them can work and all have potential, but none of them are a finished product. It will be interesting to see if any of them can do enough to earn a roster spot.

8. One young guy that keeps jumping out for me is Reid Blankenship, an undrafted rookie out of Middle Tennessee. The 6-1, 205-pound Blankenship always seems to be doing something positive when he’s out there, at practice or in games. Given where the Eagles are at safety — Epps and a bunch of question marks — I’m not convinced Blankenship doesn’t deserve roster consideration. Now, he tends to go up against the other team’s third stringers, but he’s active, he’s tough, he’s physical and he’s smart, and if you have those elements in your game, you have a chance.

9. When we first realized that Nick Siriani valued joint practices more than preseason games when it came to getting to work, I was skeptical. But after watching two days of combined practice and the reps the rookies got against the Browns, and then seeing all the valuable reps the backups got on Sunday, I’m convinced this is the way to go. These joint activities are intense. They are physical, not bad, and very valuable, and as Siriani says, it seems like the starters are playing two games in a row. Also, the offense and defense don’t have to be vanilla because there are no scouts from other teams. So this is really high level work. If the main goal of the preseason is to get the rookies ready for opening day, I think this is a great way to do it.

10. You knew I wasn’t going to end this without giving Allen props for his first catch in an organized football game in six years. It’s been a tough few weeks for Allen, who rarely gets reps in practice and just hasn’t had a chance to show off his world-class speed. Playing professional football after not playing football since 2016 is incredibly difficult, but Allen has quietly put in the work, gotten used to running with pads again, learned the offense and we finally got to see what he can do when he runs away from one-time Eagle cornerback Lavert Hill and reeled in a 55-yard touchdown bomb from Sinnett for his first catch since Sept. 10, 2016, when he had four catches for 141 yards for Oregon against Virginia in Eugene. Allen doesn’t make 53, but when you see a game like that, you understand why the Eagles were willing to invest time in the Olympic hurdler, who has been absent for six years, and why they would want to keep him around in team practice. It’s not easy to find fast guys who can catch the ball, and Allen showed on Sunday that he can do both. Sinnett, who didn’t make a lot of them, also threw a hell of a lot.

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