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The Eagles’ Miles Sanders was a healthy scratch against the Steelers, but how did the rest of the RBs do? | Early Birds

The second half of Thursday's game featured heavy doses of Jason Huntley, Kenny Gainwell, and Kerryon Johnson.

Eagles running back Jordan Howard rushes against Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Chris Wormley during the first quarter.
Eagles running back Jordan Howard rushes against Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Chris Wormley during the first quarter.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Friday. Is your day starting off like Quez Watkins’, or is it a Nick Mullens kind of morning? Either way, it’s good to have some game action to unpack.

We found out after the Eagles’ 24-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that Miles Sanders was a healthy scratch, making him one of the few healthy players not to take some snaps in Thursday night’s preseason opener. Coach Nick Sirianni said the coaching staff already knows what the 24-year-old is capable of, and elected not to risk injury to their top running back.

“We just felt like we have seen him, we know what he is, we know that we’re excited about him,” Sirianni said. “We’re really excited about him, wanting to be keep him fresh, and we’ll reevaluate and look at next week and if he’ll play next week.”

In Sanders’ absence, Jordan Howard started. Howard played the entire first series, logging one carry for 3 yards before watching the rest of the game from the sideline. Boston Scott took the entirety of the second series and had one carry for 4 yards.

The second half featured heavy doses of Jason Huntley, Kenny Gainwell, and Kerryon Johnson. Gainwell had two carries for 14 yards, leading the team with 7 yards per carry. He also had a team-high four targets, which he translated into two catches for 16 yards. The fifth-round pick out of Memphis led the team in all-purpose yards and logged some bright moments.

Huntley also had a solid night, returning a kick in the first quarter for a 35-yard gain before taking plenty of snaps at running back in the second half. He had a would-be 30-yard run called back because of a holding penalty. Johnson had two carries for 12 yards.

It’s early, but the Eagles’ final running-back spots behind Sanders and Scott seem to favor Gainwell and Huntley in terms of performance, but Howard in terms of reps with the starters.

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What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. It’s probably a good time to buy Watkins stock. Yours truly broke down the wide receiver’s solid evening, along with the other main takeaways from the game.

  2. Jalen Hurts might have looked shaky during the first two weeks of training camp, but he showed composure in his first game action of the preseason. Josh Tolentino breaks down the quarterback’s performance.

  3. The Eagles updated their coronavirus protocols leading into Thursday’s game, requiring all fans and staff members to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

  4. Should the Eagles trade for Deshaun Watson or stick with Hurts? Marcus Hayes explains why Thursday’s game would help determine which route is best.

From the mailbag

Think we see DeVonta [Smith] at all this preseason or hold out till week one? — from Jon (@JHern00) on Twitter

Good question, John. It will really depend on how Sirianni approaches the third preseason game. If the starters play, there’s a decent chance Smith returns in time for the game. He’s done some running during the last few practices and jogged to the locker room last week. It doesn’t seem like his knee injury will cost him significant time.

If he doesn’t play, whether it’s because the starters sit the third game or because the Eagles are being extra cautious with their first-round pick, I don’t think there’s much reason to be concerned. Missing practice reps would be the most debilitating thing about him sitting until the regular season — working on timing is important and he’d have missed valuable reps. Aside from that, missing the third game wouldn’t be a huge deal in my opinion.