The NFL Divisional round is almost upon us. The Eagles will play host to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday in a game that already has many fans on the edge of their seats. Here are five players you’ll want to keep an eye on when the game unfolds.
Foles has been less than impressive in both of his last two outings as the Eagles starting quarterback. After the Falcons forced Jared Goff to throw 45 times, completing just 24, they will be licking their lips at the chance to disrupt the veteran who has s struggled to find a rhythm. The aim for Atlanta will be simple. Disrupt the timing on routes and break up the rushing efforts in order to marginalize Foles. It will be down to the quarterback in his sixth season to not let the pressure get to him. Foles has completed 23 of his last 49 passing attempts for less than 200 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 picks. A Falcons defense that plays with sideline-to-sideline speed will be a tough challenge for Foles, but is it one he can overcome?
The Falcons rushing attack may be one of the most overlooked in the playoffs. DeVonta Freeman will be joined by Tevin Coleman in the backfield and when the two have rushed for a combined total of 200+ yards, they’re 7-1. The ultimate complimenting duo, Freeman’s bruising style is balanced with the elusive zippiness and versatility of Coleman. Containing the run will be key for the Eagles and their new starting MLB Dannell Ellerbe will be at the forefront of those efforts, so long as his injury isn’t too serious.
Ellerbe may be a little grizzled, but his decision-making and tackling over the last few weeks have been a blessing to an Eagles defense that have faltered ever so slightly against the run. The former New Orleans Saint will have a big role to play whenever the Falcons do decide to charge between the tackles.
Last year it was Jalen Mills who was tasked with covering Julio Jones. This year, it looks like it will be Ronald Darby in what is his biggest assignment of the year. Darby’s play has been a complete rollercoaster since returning from his heartbreaking week 1 injury, but now all of those traits that earned him PFF’s rookie of the year award two years ago.
Jones has been a monster this season, but that’s a surprise to absolutely nobody. With 1,400+ yards to his name, Julio Jones has wreaked havoc on opposing defenses all year long and doesn’t plan to stop now. This will be one of the game’s marquee matchups and certainly one worth keeping a very close eye on.
Anything you can do, we can do better. If the Eagles decide to stack the box, look for Malcolm Jenkins and his hybrid role to be a key cog in stopping the run. The Eagles safety has been lethal all across the field this season and the team will be relying on his veteran experience to help keep the defense elevated in times of need.
With 76 tackles to his name, Jenkins has again beet outstanding for the Birds all year long and led the team in tackles when they played the Falcons last time out. Expect a big showing again from one of the team’s most dominant players.
Sure, there will be plenty of focus on Jay Ajayi, but if the Eagles are going to beat a team who consistently stack 8 defenders in the box, they need to stretch the field. While Ajayi’s versatility is growing, it will be the reliability of Clement that could come in handy. With 6 touchdowns this year, (2 of which through the air), the former Wisconsin Badger has had a brilliant rookie campaign. He’s also averaging 12.3 yards per reception.
If the Eagles are indeed going to throw it back to the Chip Kelly era, look for Clement to see plenty of action on screens and sweeps.