The Eagles head into week 2 with nothing but a win on their mind. Doing so would mean that Head Coach Doug Pederson maintains his unbeaten record against the Falcons, moving to 4-0 in the last four years. But this is only the second time in which Carson Wentz has faced them. Here is how both Wentz and Pederson can maintain their perfect records.
It all starts upfront
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. If week one was any inclination, there could still be a long way to go.
Matty Ice was hurried 13 times, sacked 4 times and hit a ton more…and the Eagles pass-rush will be smelling blood in the water with first-round pick Chris Lindstrom now injured. 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.
The Eagles pass-rush is deployed differently to that of Minnesota, with the Birds’ rushing four and playing zone coverage as opposed to the aggressive blitzes often called by Mike Zimmer. However, the weakness along Atlanta’s offensive front bodes very, very well for an Eagles pass-rush that saw three players rank inside the top 5 with the most QB hurries in week 1.
On the other side of the ball, containing DT Grady Jarrett, who had 6 sacks last year, will be key. The Eagles running game appears to be unpredictable once more and trying to get that push outside the tackles will be key, but a pair of athletic linebackers lurk. The Eagles offensive front is a prestigious unit that was able to silence Ryan Kerrigan one week ago. If they can smother Jarrett and keep Wentz upright, the chances of winning what projects to be a shootout will sky-rocket..
A young secondary coming of age
Julio Jones is becoming a ‘Larry Fitzgerald’ level Eagles nemesis. He’s had over 100 yards in each of his last three games against the team and what’s scary now is the depth behind him. Julio may have only had 31 yards in week one, but Calvin Ridley and Mohammed Sanu both balled out. Jones draws attention and the Eagles secondary has already showed that there are some fundamental flaws to iron out.
What is now a very young group may be able to stop Julio from wreaking havoc with a solid gameplan, but at what expense? Will Sanu be able to work the slot and find open spaces against a feisty Avonte Maddox? Will Calvin Ridley send either Jones or Douglas on a ride with his crisp route-running? The Eagles cornerback committee may well face their first true test under the primetime lights. It’s fight or flight.
The winning DNA
On the inverse of that, we now know just how dangerous DeSean Jackson can be, but much like Julio Jones, even if the Falcons contain him, it’s going to leave other avenues open, just as we saw in week one.
There were plenty of occasions where Jackson was used to draw corners downfield, opening up a window underneath for Agholor, Ertz, and even Jeffery. We can expect much of the same this week against a very young and volatile cornerback corps.
The Falcons may have a stunning Safety position which will be looking to try and force some mental errors from Carson Wentz, but outside of Desmond Trufant and a slightly inconsistent young Isaiah Oliver, there’s plenty of reason for Wentz and the recently formed ‘DNA’ boys to be licking their lips.
Atlanta was steam-rolled by Dalvin Cook last week and the Eagles are going to play on that. Expect plenty of play-action looks and deep shots down the field on Sunday night, something especially important if the team is to finally start fast.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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