Check us out every week as we break down the Atlanta Falcons chances against the enemy team! This week we look at the Falcons season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Welcome to the 2018 version of scouting the enemy! The Atlanta Falcons start the season on Thursday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that narrowly beat them and went on to become the eventual Super Bowl champion. Although the Eagles’ team has made some changes on both sides of the ball, this is still a highly physical and imposing team. To beat this team, there’s one key place where this game has to be won: the trenches.
The Falcons’ defense is by far one of the fastest, if not the fastest, in the NFL. However, teams have learned to attack them with the run game and force them to stop that first. This Eagles offensive line is one of the best of the business, and running back Jay Ajayi gave the Falcons fits in the divisional round. As a result, the defense had issues getting off the field.
Coach Doug Peterson is one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL. He will most definitely lean on the running game again and using RPO (Run pass option) off of that. I expect the Eagles to run lots of ’11′( 1 RB/1 TE) and possibly ’12’ personnel (1 RB/2 TE) against the Falcons defense as they have a real strength at TE. To combat that, I fully envision defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel using a lot of base personnel (4-3). Also, I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see Brooks Reed see more reps than Vic Beasley initially as the focus has to be stopping the run.
More from Blogging Dirty
- Atlanta Falcons are the perfect fit for Leonard Floyd
- 3 Largest Atlanta Falcons 2023 dead cap hits
- Atlanta Falcons trade up for a quarterback in this full mock draft
- Atlanta Falcons: 3 trade packages to land first-overall pick
- 3 Reasons the Atlanta Falcons shouldn’t fear Derek Carr and the Saints
There are a few players that I have my eye on against the Eagles. We get a chance to take an extended look at Terrell McClain and how he performs against the Eagles offensive line. We also get to see how Takk McKinley performs against one of the most athletic left tackles in the game in Jason Peters.
Given that the Falcons defensive backs can match up one on one with the Eagles receivers, I can see Coach Manuel stacking eight in the box and using Cover One (one safety deep) on the back end to ensure all hands on deck in regards to stopping the run. For the Falcons defense to really keep the Eagles offense in check, they need to exhibit the following: gap integrity, proper leverage and good tackling. Also, grabbing a turnover or three certainly won’t hurt.
The Eagles’ defense is a top-five defense, full stop. This defense is lead by a stout and star studded defensive line lead by Fletcher Cox, and capped off by the addition of Michael Bennett, formally of the Seattle Seahawks. The front seven is what makes this defense tick. Again, this turns into a trenches war.
In the 2017 divisional playoff, the Falcons offense did make a little headway with running the ball with Tevin Coleman. Coleman had a particularly good game on stretch plays and even out of the backfield. For Coach Sarkisian to be successful, he will certainly have to establish the run game against this defense. Easier said than done right? The offensive line must step up against this Philly defense so the Falcons can take control of the game.
For this offense, there’s no question that the skilled players outmatch those for Philadelphia. Again, the trenches is where it will count. I do expect Coach Sarkisian to run ’21’ and ’12’ personnel to start with the running game. However, this will be a big test for Sarkisian.
Will he run more variations and plays under these personnel groupings to keep the Eagles off balance?
Also, Sarkisian mentioned using Coleman more in the passing game. There isn’t a better opportunity to do so than against the Eagles. Using ’21’ personnel to put both Coleman and Freemen out there will not only open up opportunities for Coleman as he’s a match up nightmare, but because Coach Jim Schwartz likes to deploy a single high safety in most cases, it could also open up opportunities down the field as well. To really put a strain on this defense, Sarkisian must gameplan to run different plays from specific personnel groupings to give the Philly defense many different looks. That way, they can’t key in on any one facet.
This will be a huge test for the Falcons in Philadelphia. The trenches, especially for the Falcons defense, will be crucial in gaining an advantage against this stout and athletic Eagles team. If the Falcons can match intensity in the trenches and keep the Eagles off balance, then they can walk away with their first win of the season.