McCown Shines in Lightning-Shortened Loss to Ravens
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Turns out Doug Pederson played many of his healthy starters in the traditional dress-rehearsal game but that list did not include franchise quarterback Carson Wentz during a 26-15 lightning-shortened loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
Inclement weather that sparked dangerous conditions near the bowl of Lincoln Financial Field forced officials to suspend the game with 11:43 left, resulting in Baltimore's 16th consecutive preseason win, a strange and, in some ways, amazing accomplishment.
It was Cody Kessler, coming off a concussion last week in Jacksonville and a longshot to make the 53-man roster, who got to play with a host of regulars, including Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo and Jason Kelce on the offensive line, as well as the Eagles' best receivers like tight end Zach Ertz and wideouts Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor.
"I don't take these days for granted," Ertz, who caught his only target for 13 yards, said. "For me, I like going out there and competing. It's more than just fun for me. I'm only playing in one preseason game for a quarter so I was just trying to make the most of it."
Kessler's numbers were fine -- 3 for 5 for 34 yards but for the second consecutive he had trouble reading the defense and getting the football out on time.
Recently signed veteran Josh McCown was the second man up and is clearly the team's best option as a backup to Wentz. The 40-year-old was coaching high school football at this time last week so he was rusty but there were a host of throws that reminded you of why the 18-year veteran has stuck around so long, including a beautifully placed 20-yard touchdown pass over the shoulder of rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
"Definitely feels good to score the first one and hopefully I can keep it going and just keep getting better every week, keep scoring touchdowns for this team and help any way I can," Arcega-Whiteside said."
Overall McCown took over in the Eagles' third offensive series of the night and played through the third quarter, completing 17-of-24 passes for 192 yards with two TD passes, the other to backup tight end Alex Ellis, for a more-than-solid 122.2 passer rating.
"I thought he did a really good job," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said of McCown. "He's a veteran player, obviously. ... I had him highlight plays he knew in four days and just called [plays] off of that. He handled it extremely well."
Corey Clement got the start in the backfield with Jordan Howard sitting out and carried in seven times for 25 yards, likely solidifying his spot as the RB4.
"It was fun," Clement said. "I got a chance to get back out there and play some football again. It's been since December, so getting back with the first team and just getting the feel back of the game. It was awesome."
Arcega-Whiteside saw the most traffic as a receiver and produced, hauling in eight of nine targets for 104 yards and a TD.
The first-team defense -- minus Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Nigel Bradham and Ronald Darby -- was solid, allowing one splash play, a 44-yard hookup between Baltimore rookies Trace McSorley and Miles Boykin. The second-team defense failed to contain the athletic McSorley, who struggled in the joint practices between the two teams earlier in the week but exploded with 203 yards passing with two TD passes and another score running the football.
Safety Rodney McLeod played in his first game since September of last year when he tore his ACL and recorded three tackles, including one for loss.
"Really it was just everything I guess I envisioned," McLeod said. "I just wanted to get a couple of tackles just to get that out of the way. It's been a while since I've had actual contact and actually take guys to the ground. So it felt good to get a couple of tackles in."
As for Wentz not playing Pederson cited the work Wentz got during the week in joint practices as well as training camp as a whole.
"It was my decision not to play him," the coach explained. "Listen, we've had a lot of good work with him in training camp. We had a lot of great work against Baltimore this week in practice and I'm real comfortable with where he's at right now."
EAGLES PRESEASON STOCK REPORT:
Josh McCown - McCown really heated up in the third quarter and yes it was against the Ravens' reserves so you have to take it with a grain of salt but his arm talent is just so much more significant than Kessler, Clayton Thorson or even Nate Sudfeld.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - The Eagles are really excited about Arcega-Whiteside's future and the second-round pick from Standford had a bit of a coming-out party in Week 3 of the preseason, showing off his vaunted red-zone skills as well as the sneaky athletism that tends to surprise defensive backs.
Corey Clement - The third-year back showed some explosion in his first significant action since a murky knee injury shut down his 2018 season. He showed enough to solidify the fourth RB spot behind Howard, Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles.
Jeremiah McKinnon - McKinnon has been solid at times in camp but really struggled at the worst time against Baltimore, being beaten in man coverage with some big-bodied receivers.
Rasul Douglas - Douglas, a big corner, had issues in practice with the bigger Miles Boykin and that continued tonight as the Notre Dame rookie turned Douglas around like a top in coverage before making the corner look like a Keystone Cop in taking out Malcolm Jenkins with friendly fire. Sorry Rasul truthers, Darby isn't being pushed in the least.
Cody Kessler - He faced extremely long odds anyway with McCown arriving this week but Kessler again failed to feel the blitz and get rid of the football in a timely fashion, a significant issue because precessing times was the one advantage he was perceived to have over Sudfeld.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen