Know your Eagles enemy: Are the Falcons vulnerable heading into week 2?

REJOICE! The Eagles are 1-0!

After a scary first half, the Eagles rebounded to completely dominant the Redskins in the second half and win soundly 32-27. At one point the Eagles had scored 25 unanswered points to be up 32-20, then the Redskins had a garbage time touchdown to bring the score so close, to the dismay of many bettors who picked the Eagles -10.

Now it’s on to Atlanta to face a Falcons team coming off a dismal loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Before we dive into that game and see what Atlanta will bring from that game into the game against the Eagles, lets review their off season.

Key additions: 

Guard James Carpenter (free agency – Jets), guard Chris Lindstrom (first round draft pick [fractured his foot in first game with team]), running back Kenjon Barner (free agency – Panthers), defensive end Adrian Clayborn (free agency – Patriots), Ra’Shede Hageman (free agency – reinstatement)

Key departures: 

Running back Tevin Coleman (free agency – 49ers), defensive end Bruce Irvin (free agency – Panthers), cornerback Robert Alford (free agency – Cardinals), cornerback Brian Poole (free agency – Jets)

You could argue that a significant addition to this team is the massive new contract that Julio Jones received last week.  He signed a three year extension worth $66 million, which makes him the league’s highest paid wide receiver.  Well warranted.

Now that he has his contract, he’ll focus on making life miserable for opposing defenses.

However, he didn’t make life too miserable for the Vikings last week, as he only had six receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown.  The tide could turn next week, though.

In his five career games against the Eagles, Jones has feasted.

  • Receiving yards: 597 (119.4 yards per game)
  • Receptions: 36 (7.2 receptions per game)
  • Yards per reception: 16.58 (that’s a lot)

The only saving grace here is that Jones only has three touchdowns in those five games.  In those five games, the Falcons are 3-2, having lost the last two.

In their playoff loss to the Eagles in January 2018, Jones had nine receptions for 101 yards and no touchdowns.  The Eagles defense has been the ultimate “bend but don’t break” against him.

But there are other players other than Jones on this Falcons roster.  Who should the Eagles look out for?

Matty Ice

Matt Ryan is coming off an average game against the Vikings, throwing for 304 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.  He had a fantastic year in 2018, throwing for 4,924 yards, 35 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.  However, that came with a 7-9 record.

Ryan’s defense gave up 26.4 points per game last season, so the record was hardly Ryan’s fault.

Ryan has played the Eagles seven times and has a 3-4 record, his last win coming in 2015.  In those seven games, he averaged 257 passing yards, two touchdowns, and 1.3 interceptions.  If the Eagles can hold him to those averages, the game can easily fall in the Eagles favor.

In the playoff loss versus the Eagles, Ryan went 22 for 36 with 210 yards and one touchdown.

Last week, Ryan was sacked four times and was sacked 42 times last season. The Eagles defensive line will likely have a field day against an offensive line that is now missing promising rookie guard Chris Lindstrom.

Ryan will surely want to show that the game against the Vikings was just a blip on the radar towards another 2016-esque season. But facing him is a secondary that wants to prove that they’re better than the one that made Case Keenum look like Joe Montana for one half.

Deion Jones and Keanu Neal

The dynamic duo of the Falcons’ 2016 draft class is linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal.  Both Jones and Neal played in the game against the Eagles last September, but Neal left the game in the second half after suffering a non-contact knee injury.  It was the second time he injured the knee that game.  It was found out after the game that Neal suffered a torn ACL and would miss the rest of the season. 

Jones, on the other hand, played 96% of the team’s defensive snaps and finished with nine tackles.  But after the game, he went into surgery for a foot injury suffered during the loss and would miss most of the season, returning in week 13. 

Both players are absolutely dynamic, and now that they are healthy, the Eagles will have to account for both of them in their offensive game plan.  Look for more 12 personnel to take care of either Neal or Jones coming around the ends. These guys can blitz and they can cover receivers, tight ends, and backs. They’re special. 

The Falcons’ defense as a whole is not good, so if the Eagles can contain these two play makers, Wentz should have no problem repeating his success from the first game of the season. 

Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley

There’s so much focus on the Falcons’, and quite possibly the league’s, best wide receiver that the team’s other receivers don’t get talked about much outside of Atlanta.

Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley need to be talked about more. Sanu had the best year of his then seven year career in 2018. A player gaining 838 receiving yards shouldn’t be overlooked.

Yet, he is. Last year against the Eagles, Sanu caught four of six targets for 18 yards.  Hardly eye popping numbers. This may have been because Julio Jones was too busy speeding by Jalen Mills all game. 

But last week, Sanu actually led the wide receivers in snaps with 62. Next is Ridley with 57, then Jones with 50. The Falcons’ game plan is showing their faith in the veteran. 

Calvin Ridley had a very promising rookie season in 2018. He caught 64 passes for 821 yards and ten touchdowns. Last week, he caught four passes for 64 yards. He’s a field stretcher. Ridley was only targeted twice against the Eagles last season, catching zero passes, but it’s safe to say that he will be heavily involved in the game plan Sunday Night.

The trio of Jones, Sanu, and Ridley will give the Eagles secondary fits.  But the Eagles have talent in that secondary, they just need to tackle.

A brief history and game prediction on the next page!

Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

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