DeAndre Carter keeps dream alive of making Eagles' roster with big effort

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CLEVELAND — Nick Foles wanted to get into a rhythm. He wanted to score some points. He wanted to at least get into the “feel” of the game. 

None of those things happened on Thursday night.

Foles again wasn’t at his sharpest and neither was the rest of the offense as the Eagles lost to the Browns, 5-0 (yeah, you read that right), at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in the third preseason game. 

The Super Bowl MVP actually completed 13 of 17 passes for 127 yards, but threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once. Again, not his cleanest performance. 

There were a couple times in the second quarter when the Eagles actually started to find some rhythm, but both drives were ended by turnovers in Cleveland territory. The first time, Matt Jones fumbled the ball away after a catch. The second time, Foles just made a terrible decision, throwing into traffic, and was picked off. 

The Eagles’ first-team offense with Foles failed to score this preseason and won’t play next week in the fourth and final preseason game. 

Foles completed 16 of 26 passes for 171 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns this preseason. He was also sacked six times and lost two fumbles. 

Now, these results for Foles and the first-team offense have to be taken with a grain of salt, because it’s not exactly the first-team offense. No Jason Peters, no Jay Ajayi, no Alshon Jeffery, no Nelson Agholor, no Corey Clement. And, perhaps most importantly, no detailed game plan (see observations).

Good news for the offense: Carson Wentz looked really good in a workout before the game (see story)

At least the D showed up
After a few missed tackles early, the Eagles’ first-team defense really settled in. The Browns gained just 100 yards against the first-team defense on six drives before the second unit came out for the final drive of the first half. 

More impressively, the defense was put into a couple tough situations and did well. The Browns started two drives in Eagles’ territory — one from the 35 and one from the 45 — and came away with just three points. The Browns actually lost six yards combined on those two drives. 

The defense also stopped the Browns on four straight plays from the 1-yard line to keep them out of the end zone. 

Jordan Hicks, Fletcher Cox and Haloti Ngata each had sacks in the first half. Michael Bennett and Chris Long got some good pressure when they got on the field. That defense can get after quarterbacks.

See ya, Matt Jones
After dropping three passes last week, Jones killed momentum of a drive that looked really promising in the first half. He actually caught the ball this time but then fumbled it away. Coming into training camp, I thought he was the front-runner for that fourth running back job. He’ll be lucky if the Eagles let him on the plane back to Philly after this one. 

I see you, Smallwood 
It took a while for Wendell Smallwood to get some holes opened up for him, but he got most of the first-team reps and did well. Don’t count him out. Fans might be clamoring for new blood, but Smallwood has a real chance to make this team.

Depth chart watch
Sidney Jones got first-team reps at the slot corner. Jim Schwartz said this game would go a long way to determining that job. Avonte Maddox only got in with the twos, but did have an interception. Kamu Grugier-Hill was the starting WILL in the base package. Destiny Vaeao started at DT instead of Ngata. 

With a lot of injuries to receivers, Mike Wallace, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter started the game. Somehow, Isaac Seumalo managed to play three positions in the first half: center, left guard and left tackle. He filled in for Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Stefen Wisniewski, who all left at various times with minor injuries. 

Hey Mr. Carter
Little-known receiver Carter got some run with the first team as a slot guy and did really well. That isn’t a surprise to anyone who watched him during training camp, where he consistently made plays. He had a big 29-yard catch from Foles that seemed to get the offense going a little bit. The top five receiver spots are locked up, but Carter is now in contention if they keep six. He also got the first crack at returning punts tonight and returned one 29 yards in the second half. 

Kicker watch
Jake Elliott missed a 33-yarder Thursday night a week after he missed an extra point. He still seems to struggle with those short kicks. The Eagles ought to take a few penalties and push themselves back. Elliott, for what it’s worth, had a really good training camp, going almost the whole way without missing a kick. 

Injuries
Kelce, Wiz and Big V all left with minor injuries but all were able to return. Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor left but was able to return. Browns corner, and No. 4 pick Denzel Ward, left with a back injury and didn’t return. Tre Sullivan got hurt late in the game and left with 2:31. 

Jalen Mills returned from injury to play against the Browns and Foles started. 

The Eagles were without Wentz, Agholor, Clement, Donnel Pumphrey, Markus Wheaton, Kamar Aiken, Richard Rodgers, Darren Sproles, Peters, Tim Jernigan, Chris Maragos and Jeffery. 

Up next
The Eagles are now less than two weeks away from their season opener against the Falcons at the Linc on Sept. 6. They will finish off their preseason with a game at home against the Jets next Thursday. The Eagles always finish their preseason with the Jets. 

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