It’s as if the football gods (or NFL schedule makers) wanted to create as much drama as possible for Eagles fans.
After one of the most tumultuous and memorable offseasons in memory, the Eagles are finally ready to kickoff, Monday night at 7:10 p.m. under the bright lights of the George Dome.
The Falcons are the only NFC team that hasn’t been seen during Chip Kelly’s regime, and after a 6-10 year in 2014Atlanta has not done much to improve it’s team (aside from hiring a new head coach).
The Eagles are historically good in openers, and even better in night games. They are Vegas favorites by 3.5 points, but could have their hands full against the Falcons passing game.
Here are three keys for the Birds in their effort to start with a ‘W’ Monday.
First test of secondary
The Eagles had an atrocious secondary in 2014 and by many accounts, the play of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams cost the team a playoff berth down the stretch.
Gone are the aforementioned players, as is Brandon Boykinand Nate Allen. Enter a slew of new defensive backs — including high-priced Legion of Doom cornerback Byron Maxwell and young, hungry players like rookie Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll III.
Though they held their own, for the most part, during the preseason, it was the preseason. They’ll be thoroughly tested and possibly exploited against Atlanta.
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JulioJones and Matt Ryan are a dangerous combination, one that Kelly is fully award of.
“He’s not just a flatline guy. He can do everything,” Kelly said.”Sometimes some guys are 6-foot-2, they’re 220 and they can run, but they can’t change direction; he can change direction, he’s got great range, he’s got great ball skills. He’s a really savvy route runner in terms of setting up defensive backs for his move, so he’s really the total package.”
The Eagles defense will need to keep track of Jones, and the rest of Ryan’s weapons all game long.
“That’s the challenge that’s presented,” the coach said, “especially with such an accurate quarterback throwing the football, is that he can gain a little advantage because of his size and because of his route running ability. Even if he has just a little separation, Matt’s going to put it on him.”
Hit the ground running
The Eagles have a three-headed monster in DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. And any combination of two, or all three of them can give a defense fits.
The Birds ran the ball a lot more than people give them credit for in 2014, tallying top 10 marks in rushing attempts per game and rushing yards per game. If they want to be successful and create the highest probability of success for Sam Bradford and the passing game, they’ll need to get all three guys in the mix.
“The biggest thing for us is we just want to keep someone fresh in the game,” Kelly said of his ground game.”So if it takes getting you out for a couple of plays, just to get you wind and get you back, it takes a toll on the defense. So you can takeMathews out andMurray comes in; or if Murray comes out andSproles comes in. That’s kind of what we have been trying to build towards here and those three guys obviously give us the opportunity to do that.”