One quarterback was impossibly bad and another was impossibly good. And another one is just healthy.
Here’s your 10 instant observations from the lightning-shortened Eagles-Ravens preseason game Thursday night at the Linc, a 26-15 Ravens win that was called with 11:43 to go in the fourth quarter.
1. Best thing about this game? Carson Wentz didn’t get hurt. I know a lot of people think Doug Pederson should have played him at least a few series, and I understand the concerns about rust. But honestly, what’s the point? He hasn’t missed a snap in training camp, he just got two really strong days of work against a terrific Ravens defense in joint practices and he’s healthy and looks great. Remember, Wentz didn’t play in the last three preseason games his rookie year and then threw for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no INTs in his NFL debut against the Browns. After not playing in a month. As a rookie. If he’s rusty for a series or two against the Redskins — and I doubt he will be — it’s worth it to guarantee that he’s 100 percent healthy going into the game. Completely, absolutely worth it.
2. I would have cut Cody Kessler after he got sacked on 4th-and-3 in the first quarter. Doug Pederson gave Kessler every imaginable chance to succeed and to atone for his disappointing performances against the Titans and Jaguars, giving him the start with most of the starters. But a fourth-year quarterback — really no quarterback — can't let himself get sacked on fourth down. You have to have enough court awareness to at least throw the ball somewhere and give a receiver a chance to make play. Letting yourself get sacked is just giving up. Which is what the Eagles need to do now with Kessler.
3. Josh McCown got off to a little bit of a slow start, understandable for a guy who just came out of retirement and didn’t have OTAs or a training camp. His first five snaps were a fumble, three incompletions and a sack. But after that, holy cow. After that slow start he was 17-for-21 for 192 yards and two TDs — a sweet 20-yarder to JJ Arcega-Whiteside and 9 yards to tight end Alex Ellis. The 40-year-old McCown really saw the field well, made smart decisions and put the ball where he wanted. Considering that a week ago he was coaching high school football in Charlotte, it was a remarkable performance.
4. Put together instant observations Nos. 2 and 3, and there is absolutely no reason on Earth for Kessler to still be on the roster by the time you wake up Friday.
5. This is why I’m concerned about Jake Elliott. We know he has a huge leg — he’s made 52- and 53-yard field goals this preseason — but he’s also missed from 40 and now 41 yards, and those are kicks you just have to make. This is his third year with the same snapper and holder. Calm night. There’s just no excuse. Elliott got off to a slow start last year — he was 11-for-15 through the Carolina game — and then went 15-for-16 the rest of the way. So we’ll see. I’m not saying cut him or bring in other kickers for workouts. Just concerned. Just something to keep an eye on.
6. What Arcega-Whiteside did Thursday night — 8-for-104 and a terrific TD catch — is what he’s been doing every day since the start of OTAs. I know conventional wisdom is that with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson he won’t play on offense. But knowing Pederson and having seen what this kid can do, I’m telling you, they’re going to find a role for him, even if it’s just situationally on third down or in the red zone. The kid can flat play.
7. Josh Adams has virtually no chance of making this team. But I give the kid credit. He’s gotten better. He’s made huge strides as a receiver, and instead of looking at Adams as a guy who led the Eagles in rushing last year but won’t make the 53-man rister this year, look at him as a 22-year-old second-year undrafted running back who’s getting better. Another year on the practice squad wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Bucks County native.
8. Forget Corey Clement’s rushing numbers. They were OK (7-25). More important than the stats, he looked quick, strong and healthy. Pederson doesn’t gameplan in preseason games, the Eagles had no passing game to speak of in the first half and the Ravens pretty much knew when he was running, so throw out the numbers. The main thing is he looked fine in his 2019 preseason debut, his first game since he tore his ACL last December. I know a lot of people don’t think Clement will have a major role on offense or that he is even in jeopardy of getting cut. Wrong and wrong. With his ability to block, run and catch — and play special teams — he’s going to have a role.
9. All Greg Ward has done since camp started is catch everything. He’s done it at practice, he’s done it in games, and to me he’s earned a roster spot. The Eagles obviously like the former Houston quarterback. This is his third training camp here. Here’s the thing: Mack Hollins is a better special teamer, and the biggest priority for a fifth wide out is special teams. But if a couple receivers get hurt, you’d rather have Ward available than Hollins. Then you see the Eagles acquire Rudy Ford on Thursday, and the third-year safety has played nearly 500 special teams snaps over the last two years, so that’s a move that’s made with special teams in mind. Also keep in mind that Hollins is an outside receiver and Ward is mainly a slot, and because of Arcega-Whiteside, the Eagles have more of a need for a backup slot. Hollins and Ward have value but in different ways. Interesting call for Pederson and Howie Roseman.
10. Did I forget to mention how bad Cody Kessler was?
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