Sean McDermott and the Eagles defense will have their work cut out for them on Sunday when they face quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Mike Turner, tight end Tony Gonzalez, wide receiver Roddy White and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense.
They present some major problems because they are a balanced offense. As you can see by the names and positions I’ve mentioned the Falcons can do damage to your defense by either running on throwing the football.
The Falcons have one major chink in their armor and it’s a big chink, their offensive line. The Eagles defensive line must dominate Atlanta’s “O” line when they try to run, then beat them and get to Ryan when the Falcons try to pass. It’s that simple.
If the Eagles don’t win the battle upfront versus the Falcons, I don’t think they’re going to win the football game.
The first line of business for the Eagles defense will be to stop Turner on the ground, but they might have to do it without an eighth man in the box. It’s going to be very difficult to bring a safety up with White and Gonzalez running routes against your secondary.
The Eagles not only have to stop Turner but they must also deal with his fellow running back Jason Snelling. Turner is the bigger of the two but Snelling runs just as hard. They’re both averaging at least 4.5 yards a carry.
Their offense used to be built around Turner and their running game, but it isn’t any longer. Now Ryan has the ability to carry this football team with his arm.
The young franchise quarterback is a good athlete with a strong and accurate arm. He can make all the throws, plus he’s experienced enough to read the blitz looks.
“He’s a very intelligent guy and a very good player”, Andy Reid said yesterday when describing Ryan. “That’s normally a good combination there. He has exceptional athletic ability, strong arm, great timing, gets the ball out of his hands and doesn’t hold on to the football. He’s got good accuracy. He’s a Pro Bowl quarterback and that’s what he is. He’s a caliber player.”
The Eagles defense is going to be forced to take their chances at times. I repeat the defensive line has got to win their battle with the Falcons offensive line.
I don’t like the thought of White and the other starting wide receiver Michael Jenkins getting the chance to run deep routes against Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Dimitri Patterson and Trevard Lindley. White is a big wide receiver with blazing speed.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, the Eagles cornerbacks aren’t blazers. You can beat them deep. We’ve seen Hanson torched deep a couple of times in the preseason and Hobbs has been on the burners by the Packers.
I saw a hightlight of White torching former Eagle and current Cleveland cornerback Sheldon Brown for a touchdown last week.
He’s a complete receiver, who will work the short inside stuff, but also take you deep.
Jenkins will return this week from injury, but he’s not quite as good as White but he’s also big and fast. We’ll have to wait and see how quickly Ryan develops the confidence in him again.
As for Gonzalez who happens to be the greatest pass receiving tight end in the history of the NFL, all we can do is hold our breaths. You and I know how much trouble the Eagles have with tight ends. Some how, they’re going to have to take Gonzalez away from Ryan without double-teaming him.
Did I already say that the defensive line has got to win the battle upfront? The big boys upfront must play well, which means stopping the running game to get the Falcons in third and longs. Ryan has been sacked 10 times already, so you can get to him.
It’s a good thing the Birds are playing at home. The crowd has to be a factor on 3rd down by making it too loud for Ryan to check out of plays.