CLEVELAND: If you are looking for something to take away from the Eagles 21-20 preseason win over the Cleveland Browns (1-1) at half-empty FirstEnergy Stadium on Lake Erie on Sunday, it was seeing the Eagles backups perform
If you had concerns about the durability of starting running back Miles Sanders heading into the season and there always seems to be reason for concern with Sanders. a lot of fears were quelled by the play of Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott.
The backs were each featured in the Birds first two drives that ended with touchdowns.
The Eagles (1-1) took a 7-0 lead after Boston Scott rushed ten times for33 years and the one-yard touchdown run.
That was it for the day for Scott, who also caught a pass for four yards.
The second drive featured second-year running back Kenneth Gainwell, who rushed 11 times for 46 yards including a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Gainwell said he didn’t care that he wasn’t targeted for any passes.
“The plan worked the way it did, so I’m happy with it,” Gainwell said in the locker room after the game. “I’m happy to be back on the field and do what I do. It felt great to be back out there.”
The Eagles offensive line – mostly players who are slated to be backups this season – pounded the ball well in the first half rushing 26 times for 85 yards.
The 3.3 yards per carry wasn’t great, but many of the runs were short-yardage plays that included the two short rushing touchdowns and a fourth down play.
Jack Driscoll, and Andre Dillard started at the tackle spots, Jack Anderson and Sua Opeta started at guard with Cam Jurgens under center. Kayode Awosika also saw some time on the line in the first half.
“We did a great job, the coaches did a great job calling plays, it was awesome to run the ball like that,” Driscoll said. “It set up a lot of other thinks down the line as you saw. It was good to get those long drives, out it on us up front and get the job done.”
Sirianni has maintained that joint practices are a lot like playing preseason games. He felts the starters got their work done during the Thursday and Friday joint practices at the Browns practice facility.
“I really felt like we got two good days of work,” Sirianni said after the game. “We really look at those joint practices as games.
“How often do you play a game on Thursday, play a game on Friday and come back and play a game again on Sunday? It’s a controlled game setting. And you get what you want. We didn’t get to do some things today because of situations in a game that arise.
“We got more red zone reps on Cleveland on Friday than we did today. I felt like we got great work in. Hopefully we can do this again with Cleveland next year. It was really good.”
NEW RECEIVERS SHINE
After being away from the game for six years, wide receiver Devon Allen, a two-time Olympic track star, has been trying to combine his gift of speed with learning route running and catching the ball at the NFL level.
It has been a slow process. He is hardly noticed at practice. He has admitted it’s been a bit overwhelming.
Sunday though, Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen opened up the playbook for a deep pass play in the third quarter that saw quarterback Reid Sinnett connect with Allen for a 55-yard touchdown that caused quite a celebration on the field as well as the sideline.
“A.J. (Brown) ran down the sideline 60 yards to celebrate with me, which was pretty cool,” Allen said. “It was also my aunt’s birthday today…shout out to my aunt, happy birthday. “
Where was Allen for those six years?
After coming out of high school in Phoenix, AZ as a four-star wide receiver recruit, Allen committed to the University of Oregon and played football for the Ducks for three years as a receiver, with his first season as the most productive one.
After coming out of college, however, he focused his athletics on hurdling and track-and-field rather than football.
After years of competing in the US Nationals and the Olympics, Allen chose to participate in the football pro day held for players at the University of Oregon during the 2022 preseason.
Allen did well enough to catch the attention of NFL scouts when he ran an unofficial 4.35-second 40-yard dash.
He impressed the Eagles enough for them to bring him in for an April 7 visit to NovaCare where he signed a three-year, rookie free agent contract.
“I’ve got a lot to learn, I’m not even close,” Allen admitted. “It’s crazy with the talent we have on this football team…that this is my first team in the NFL and we have six or seven, ten guys in the receiver room who are starters somewhere in the NFL. It’s a hard team to make. I’m going to do my best to progress.”
Allen was asked about the play…Allen was an entire first down ahead the nearest defender as he raced down the field. The ball was in the air for what must have seemed like an eternity.
Allen said he made sure he did not think about anything at all.
“No, you don’t think,” the 27-year-old said with a laugh. “When the ball’s in the air, you never think ‘don’t drop it.’ Because that’s like a negative thought. You just think, ‘my ball, my ball.’”
Deon Cain, a sixth round draft pick out of Clemson in 2018 has been impressive all summer.
After stops in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Cain was signed to the Eagles practice squad on On October 18, 2021, He signed a reserve/future contract with the Eagles on January 18, 2022.
On Sunday Cain led all receivers with five catches for 66 yards including back-to-back over the shoulder catches on throws by Gardner Minshew. The first reception went for 24 yards, the second for 23 yards.
Cain was asked if difficult catches were his specialty.
“Anything that’s vertical…it’s just something that I love,” said Cain, who many observers believe may steal Jalen Reagor’s roster spot. “It’s backyard football in my mind. That’s the first route you learn…anything vertical, anything that comes to playmaking. I’m a playmaker. If my number is called, I’m going to make the play.”
So far, Cain has been more than able. *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org