2019 saw an offseason of investment for the Atlanta Falcons along the offensive front. Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary were drafted by the team with the expectation of fixing a fatal flaw. The group allowed 42 sacks last season and ranked 24th in rushing and simply had to find a way to stop the bleeding.
After just one game however, it looks just as vulnerable as ever. RG Chris Lindstrom upsettingly went down with an injury in his first ever NFL game and will be replaced by Jamon Brown and the rest of the line looked wobbly throughout.
While Alex Mack had a solid day, recently signed LG James Carpenter allowed two QB hurries and struggled in run-blocking. Veteran LT Jake Matthews allowed five QB pressures and overall, Matty Ice was hurried 13 times, sacked 4 times and hit a ton more…and things don’t exactly look great moving forward.
Jamon Brown, who will replace the fallen rookie, graded 54.0 in pass protection and 54.9 last season and enters this year accounting for $12.75M against the cap.
It’s safe to say that the Eagles will smell blood in the water. Not only did Atlanta struggle to keep Matt Ryan upright, but running the ball was nigh-on impossible. Devonta Freeman had just 19 rushing yards on 8 carries and now faces an Eagles run defense that held a physical Derrius Guice to a similar day of 18 yards on 10.
If we’re talking pass-rush potential, the Sharks are certainly circling. The Eagles may not have gotten to Case Keenum all that often, but they made life hell for him. When it came to QB pressures, three Eagles ranked in the top 5 in week one.
“I think in the second half we turned it up a little bit. As a [defensive line] we took on that challenge.” Brandon Graham said. “Even though we didn’t get as many sacks, we were just trying to be disruptive and I think we have some stuff we can build on.”
The Eagles will be without Malik Jackson this week, but an angry Timmy Jernigan will be taking his place. Jernigan notably started alongside Fletcher Cox during the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017. The Florida State alumni registered 2.5 sacks and 9 TFL in his debut season in Philly and was a major component in how efficient the Eagles defense was against the run. The former Raven kicked off his return to Philadelphia with a sack on Case Keenum, something his running-mate was excited to see.
“I bet it was a sigh of relief for him to come out and get a sack and do what he did right before the half.” Fletcher Cox said. “It was a big play for our defense to back [the Redskins] up. I was excited to see everybody play today. Really excited.”
If keeping Cox quiet already seemed challenging, it now seems borderline impossible so long as Jernigan keeps the fuel burning.
When speaking to reporters this week, Jim Schwartz made one point very clear. That taking their foot off the gas will absolutely not happen again after allowing Washington to run the clock down and tack on a late touchdown.
“The thing I was probably most disappointed in pass rush was the last series.” Schwartz said. “You have a two-score lead, as long as we don’t do something stupid, we’re going to win the game — by doing something stupid I mean a ball over our head, so keep it in front, let them bleed the clock. But those are good chances to get rush and I think at that point you saw it was first game for us and a lot of guys were playing their first game of the year and our conditioning probably wasn’t where it can be and where it will be and there were opportunities to make some plays there because there we weren’t getting all those heavy play actions and heavy double chips. We can do better certainly in pass rush but I think in coverage we can make the quarterback hold the ball a little longer and buy time for our guys to get home.”
If the Redskins were double-chipping and making life as difficult as possible for the Eagles and they still struggled to keep the seas calm, then we could be in for a hurricane come Sunday night.
Matt Ryan has been sacked at least three times in each of the last two games against the Eagles. With offensive line problems still plaguing this offense and Jim Schwartz setting a violent tone in the press conference, expressing frustration that is bound to be reflected in aggressive play this weekend, the Eagles front four, even without Malik Jackson, have a real chance to decimate a faltering unit.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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