Five quick takes from Thursday's Eagles-Browns game:
Jim Schwartz said Thursday's game against Cleveland would "go a long way'' in determining who would be his season-opening nickel corner. But it appeared the Eagles' defensive coordinator already had made up his mind before the opening kickoff. Sidney Jones took almost every first-half rep in sub-packages and turned in a solid performance.
Yes, they were missing their starting quarterback, their starting left tackle, three of their top four wide receivers and their top three running backs. But what passes for the Eagles' No. 1 offense right now continued to struggle against the Browns. The Eagles failed to score any points on six first-half possessions with their, uh, starters. In three preseason games, the Eagles have scored zero points in 14 possessions with their starters.
Running back Wendell Smallwood, who rushed for just one yard on four carries against the Patriots last week, was much more productive Thursday night. Taking almost all of the first-team snaps at running back in the first half, Smallwood rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries. He also had two catches for 14 yards. Through three preseason games, Smallwood appears to be in the lead for the fourth running back job behind Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement.
With three of their top four wideouts — Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins – not playing again, DeAndre Carter got a lot of playing time and made the most of it. Carter, who was signed three days into training camp, was the slot receiver in the first half when the Eagles used "11'' personnel, which was often. He had two catches for 45 yards against the Browns' first-team defense. He also had a 40-yard punt return in the third quarter. Shelton Gibson appears to have the fifth wide receiver job locked up, but the Eagles likely will keep six. And right now, Carter is the leading candidate. Particularly since he also could be their backup punt returner behind Darren Sproles.
Last week, Nick Foles completed just three of nine passes for 44 yards with no touchdowns and was sacked three times and lost a fumble against the same Patriots team he sliced and diced in February in Super Bowl LII. On Thursday, his completion percentage was much better (13-for-17), but he threw two interceptions, including a really, really bad one in the red zone, and was sacked three more times.