The Eagles are set to host the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow to kick start the second half of their regular season campaign, in a game that promises to bring a completely fresh challenge to Doug Pederson’s team. Looking to make up lost ground on their divisional opponents, this game carries a lot of weight for the Eagles..and there are five players who will need to shine in order to ensure victory.
The Falcons may be tearing up the league Offensively, but their Defense is somewhat lacking, especially with Desmond Trufant likely being sidelined. The Falcons have given up the 2nd most passing yards in the league and are now facing a team looking prove they are far more than a “dink-and-dunk” Offense.
After a very conservative couple of weeks, Pederson allowed Wentz to air it out against the Giants and as a result, his average yards per pass attempt spiked. Although the team are trying to instill a balance in the Offense, allowing Carson Wentz to sling the ball downfield and attack an already wounded secondary will give the Eagles a lot of momentum.
If he can avoid the early turnovers and settle in quickly with a homefield advantage..this could be a huge day for Carson Wentz.
The Eagles cornerback corps is incredibly light on depth and have had to rotate heavily in recent weeks due to nagging hamstring injuries for Carroll and McKelvin. This prompted the team to call up former CFL standout Aaron Grymes from the practice squad, but even if he makes his debut on Sunday, the birds will look to ease him in due to the fact that he hasn’t played a game since the preseason injury.
If the injuries persist, it will be Jalen Mills tasked with stopping Julio Jones and matching up against some of the most dangerous receivers in the league. The development of the seventh round pick this year has been brilliant to watch, but just like November last year, an Eagles rookie cornerback will face a future Hall Of Famer and expected to swim away from Julio Island.
Mills has already gotten up close and personal with OBJ and confidence is something he doesn’t lack. But if his number is called frequently on Sunday, it will be exciting to see how he handles the NFL’s leading receiver.
After receiving for 69 yards in his debut, (just 3 less yards than Huff received for all year) many will be excited to see how Bryce Treggs will be integrated into the Eagles Offense. Against the Giants, Pederson was able to stretch the field and take the leash off of Carson Wentz, something he hasn’t been able to do since the opening two games of the season.
The former Cal Speedster looked right at home in the Eagles Offense..and if he can toast a very delicate Falsons Secondary often enough, then we may see yet another side to this Eagles Offense.
The Eagles clearly want to find a balance between the run and the pass and understandably so. The backfield is averaging 23 carries as opposed to Wentz’s 37 pass attempts per game, leaving a lot of pressure on the rookie quarterback.
With such a dynamic committee backfield, it almost seems strange to be unable to find that balance. Darren Sproles seems to have assumed the lead role while Mathews has been relegated to a goal-line back, leaving Smallwood and Barner to fight for the remaining and very few snaps.
But now, the injury excuses have run dry..last week’s “tooth injury” for Mathews was apparently the reason behind an increase in reps for Sproles..but now “fully healthy”, this will be the first game in which we could be seeing the true shape of the backfield for the remainder of the season. There’s no reason to limit Ryan Mathews..so will the Eagles allow him to resume his former role, continue with Sproles, or even approach the game with a committee outlook?
With cornerback being an area of need for the Eagles, Safety Malcolm Jenkins has taken on slot responsibilities as of late, in the absence of Ron Brooks. This has allowed former Eagles cornerback, Jaylen Watkins, to play regularly at Safety..and he’s done so very well.
The Falcons Offense has the ability to school even the most disciplined Defenses..and that’s a problem for the Eagles. Away from Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman are among the many weapons Matty Ice has at his disposal.
Given the struggles at linebacker (until recently) and a weakness at cornerback, Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins will be needed on mop up duty from the moment the first snap is taken. McLeod has been excellent this season and while Watkins play has been a little more in the shadows, keep an eye out for him this game..because against the Falcons, the Eagles last line of Defense could be the difference maker come the end of the game.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports