Jason Huntley ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run with 9:25 left in the fourth quarter. He looked explosive and fast, making all the right cuts, before striking a pose in the end zone. Was it enough to earn a roster spot? Time will tell.
Final cuts are due on August 31 at 4 p.m. The Philadelphia Eagles played their final preseason game on Saturday night, a 48-10 loss to the Dolphins, not that the score matters. Players like Huntley were trying to flash in a last-ditch effort to make the 53. The third-year running back finished with 115 total yards (93 rushing, 22 receiving) and a score. Rookie Kennedy Brooks also saw an uptick in usage while running for 33 yards on 9 carries.
Head coach Nick Sirianni has five more days to cut his roster down from 80 players to 53. Training camp and the preseason are officially over. The Eagles open the regular season on the road against the Detroit Lions on September 11 at 1 p.m.
“I think we’ve had a good camp. We’ve worked hard all camp. Obviously, I’m a little disappointed in how things are going tonight,” Sirianni told Dave Spadaro. “But as a camp and in the month-plus that we’ve had together, I think we’ve come together as a team and we’re getting closer. We still got time to keep getting ready and we’ll use every day to our advantage.”
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5 Eagles Who Thrived in Preseason Finale
The Eagles-Dolphins game was all about evaluating the bubble players, mostly the undrafted rookies and second-year glue guys. Here are a few standouts (not counting Huntley) from a hot night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami:
1. Reed Blankenship: The undrafted rookie out of Middle Tennessee continued his strong preseason. Blankenship absolutely leveled Salvon Ahmed in the second quarter as the Dolphins rusher was looking to bounce outside toward open grass. He flew up from the secondary and body-slammed Ahmed, knocking him back after a short gain. Blankenship might be the second-best safety on the roster. Or at least he has looked that way in recent weeks.
2. John Hightower: Maybe quarterback Jalen Hurts wasn’t kidding when he predicted a big year for Hightower. The 2020 fifth-rounder made five catches for 52 yards, highlighted by a beautiful back-shoulder fade. Hightower read that one perfectly on a nice ball from Reid Sinnett. The 26-year-old faces long odds at making it through final cuts, but he put out some nice tape for other teams against Miami.
3. Devon Allen: Ignore what he did as a receiver in the preseason finale. He didn’t make a catch or see any targets. However, the world-class hurdler was impressive on special teams where he served as the gunner on kick returns. Allen flashed his Olympic speed early in the third quarter when he raced down the field. He was in Preston Williams’ lap and the Dolphins return man heard the footsteps.
4. Patrick Johnson: The second-year pass rusher showed his speed and physicality early in the first quarter when he stormed into an empty backfield and sacked Tua Tagovailoa. Johnson completely overpowered Dolphins right tackle Austin Jackson off the edge, throwing his hands up and forcing a long third down. Prior to that, Johnson made a nice read to get off a block and contain a run.
5. Tay Gowan: How many cornerbacks are the Eagles going to keep? The number is probably four, maybe five. But Gowan has stated his case for the team keeping six on the 53. The 2021 sixth-rounder has taken advantage of every rep, every opportunity thrown at him this summer. The stat sheet shows 2 tackles and 0 pass breakups, but he was buzzing around the ball. And Gowan was getting “sticky” (to quote Ross Tucker) with Miami receivers all night.
Reid Sinnett Struggles, Carson Strong Limited
Gardner Minshew started at quarterback and played most of the first quarter before giving way to Reid Sinnett. Minshew finished 6-of-9 for 48 yards with no touchdowns; Sinnett went 12-of-22 for 104 yards and an interception. Neither player put on his best face, especially not Sinnett who looked lost at times.
Oddly, rookie Carson Strong didn’t see his first snap under center until there was roughly 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter. He went 1-of-3 for 6 yards. Head coach Nick Sirianni hasn’t been in a rush to play Strong this summer. He’s seen limited reps in training camp practices and barely saw the field in three preseason games. And no one seems to know why.
“I think the guys are making a bunch of progress,” Sirianni said of the offense in general. “We got good coaches on this team, we got guys who want to improve, and that’s a good combination for guys to get better, and that’s what we’re seeing. Again, Howie’s done a good job of getting the right pieces in here, Howie and his staff, and just look forward to keep working with them.”