We hope the rest of the Week 3 NFL preseason slate doesn’t come close to what we saw Thursday night between the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles.
For the defending champion Eagles, it was about as bad as one can imagine. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles turned the ball over four times.
He was consistently threatened in the backfield by Myles Garrett, and couldn’t click with Philadelphia’s second-team offense.
On the other side of the ball, Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor exited in the game with a hand injury in the first quarter. Seemingly done for the remainder of the preseason, Browns head coach Hue Jackson made the most Hue Jackson of calls by bringing Taylor back into a meaningless game.
These are among the winners and losers from Cleveland’s ugly 5-0 preseason win over Philadelphia Thursday evening.
Winner: Myles Garrett, defensive end, Cleveland Browns
Eagles left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai had absolutely no answer for this second-year stud Thursday evening. Throughout the first half, it was apparent that Garrett could get to Nick Foles on a consistent basis.
— Casey Baker (@CaseyBake16) August 24, 2018
Philadelphia even sent double teams in Garrett’s direction without much success.
It’s this type of domination that the Browns expected from the Texas A&M product when they made him the No. 1 overall pick back in 2017. It’s a game-changing ability, one that will help this defense improve leaps and bounds once the regular season starts.
Loser: Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Coming back from a minor injury, the reigning Super Bowl MVP struggled in his second consecutive preseason outing. This week against Cleveland, it was about both a lack of accuracy and an inability to get rid of the ball on time. Out of the gate, he threw the ball late on an out route. It was a pass that Browns cornerback Terrance Mitchell almost turned into a pick-six.
Then, later in the first half, this Foles pass was picked off by defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
?: FOX pic.twitter.com/qvFsiBzl86
— NFL (@NFL) August 24, 2018
We don’t blame Foles for taking a shot down the right sideline. We do blame the veteran for failing to see safety help over the top. This is something that’s usually reserved for young signal callers. If that weren’t enough, Foles threw this absolutely brutal interception in the red zone to pretty much close up shop for the preseason.
All said, Foles completed 13-of-17 passes with two interceptions, a fumble and a safety en route to leading Philadelphia to zero point in six drives — the last three of which resulted in turnovers. That’s bad. Really bad. Just ask Twitter.
Winner: Fletcher Cox, defensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
Among the most underrated defensive players in the game, Cox’s abilities came out in droves Thursday night against Cleveland. Not only did it include a sack of Tyrod Taylor, the Pro Bowler consistently got into Cleveland’s backfield, making a mockery of what many expected to be an improved offensive line.
We already knew Philadelphia’s defensive line was going to be among the best in the game this season. Adding Michael Bennett to the mix magnified that further. But if Cox is going to take his performance to the next level, it could very well become an historical unit for the defending champs.
Loser: Halapoulivaati Vaitai, offensive tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
As we noted in the Garrett blurb, this backup offensive lineman had absolutely no answer for more talented defensive players on Thursday night.
Myles Garrett is gonna have a great year I feel like! pic.twitter.com/yP0sb43waU
— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) August 24, 2018
It wasn’t only Garret that dominated. Vaitai whiffed on multiple blocks and struggled in the run game, as well.
While Philadelphia has two great starting tackles in Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, any injury to one of these two All-Pro caliber performers could doom the team moving forward. Vaitai might have improved with time over the past two seasons. But as his 16 career regular starts showed prior to 2018, the third-year veteran is nowhere near a starter-caliber player.
Winner: Carlos Hyde, running back, Cleveland Browns
Having signed a free agent contract back in March, Hyde has been an incredibly violent runner during his first summer with Cleveland. That took hold in a big way earlier this preseason, and the former San Francisco 49ers second-round pick was back up to his old tricks against Philadelphia Thursday.
Here, we see Hyde stiff-arm Jalen Mills in tomorrow en rout to a brilliant 33-yard run.
It’s something Hyde has been doing throughout both the preseason and training camp. And even with a crowded backfield in Cleveland, we’re fully expecting him to be the unquestioned No. 1 running back once the regular season starts. Runs of this ilk are just special.
Loser: Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, Cleveland Browns
We’re not going to focus too much on Taylor’s injury here. While it did seem a bit worrisome at first, the Pro Bowler is fine. Instead, it’s all about the quarterback’s overall struggles. He threw for just 65 yards on 16 attempts against Philadelphia, leading the Browns to 125 total yards and three points in six drives.
One specific set of downs comes to mind the most. Prior to being injured following a fourth-down play in the first quarter, Taylor threw four consecutive incomplete passes — all coming from Philadelphia’s one-yard line.
Certainly, the play-calling left a lot to be desired here. There were also some questionable non-calls from officials. Even then, Taylor failed to show the accuracy needed to take advantage of these big-time opportunities.
Winner: Jamie Collins, linebacker, Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett might be the man that makes it tick in Cleveland’s front seven. That’s known. It wouldn’t have selected him No. 1 overall without having expectations. In no way does this mean Collins can’t be an important member of the Browns’ defense.
Having missed 10 games in his first full season with the Browns, some worried that Collins couldn’t be able to make a huge impact. Thus far in camp and the preseason, said worries have been thrown out the window.
Here, Collins reads Nick Foles’ eyes and picks off the reigning Super Bowl MVP in the red zone.
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) August 24, 2018
It’s those types of plays that can make a world of difference for the up-and-coming Browns. It’s also what made Collins such a popular figure in New England prior to being traded to Cleveland.
Loser: Hue Jackson, head coach, Cleveland Browns
We’re not even sure where to start here. It’s possible Jackson is just trying to win a football game after starting his Browns coaching career with a 1-31 record. Whatever the reason, he once again showed himself to be completely over his head Thursday night against the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.
After seeing starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor go down in the first quarter with what was a scary-looking wrist injury, Jackson decided it made sense to return Taylor to the field. The end result? Almost immediately after returning, Taylor was driven into the ground on a sack by 340-pound Eagles defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Throughout the summer, Jackson has noted that Taylor is his unquestioned starting quarterback. He’s gone as far as to say rookie Baker Mayfield wouldn’t see first-team reps. So it obviously made sense to run Taylor out there following an injury in a meaningless preseason game. How fun.