The Dan Quinn era officially begins tonight on the stat sheet. How the defensive stalwart manages to cope with Chip Kelly's unpredictability should present an intriguing matchup. There are plenty of matchups to watch for during Monday night's shootout. Atlanta's offense line will be watched closely following another eventful week of personnel moves. Nobody would have expected to see the Falcons have an entire new interior offensive line, especially on ten days notice. From replacing their biggest free agent signing for the next six weeks to starting a rookie running back, there are plenty of things to watch for against one of the NFC's perennial contenders.
Early litmus test for the offensive line
With the exception of Houston, Atlanta's offensive line won't face a more stern challenge than the Eagles' front seven this season. Fletcher Cox may have exaggerated about his claims of Philadelphia having the best front seven in football. They aren't very far off, particularly within their linebacker core. Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, and DeMeco Ryans constantly make sideline-to-sideline plays. Brandon Graham's speed off the edge has given opposing tackles fits. Connor Barwin isn't as good as his sack numbers indicate, but still generates pressure on a consistent basis through sheer power moves.
Can Atlanta's makeshift offensive line withstand an array of above average players? An interior line featuring Andy Levitre, Mike Person, and Chris Chester doesn't inspire much confidence. All three players possess athletic qualities and can get out in space to block at the second level. How they hold up at the point of attack will be crucial for Atlanta's overall success. Jake Matthews' health is once again an issue, which isn't a good sign for a player that desperately needs to improve this season. Atlanta has all the skill player components to finally live up to their explosive billing. The offense line remains as the only hindrance, which could lead to Matt Ryan being forced to make even quicker decisions than usual.
O'Brien Schofield's versatility will be tested
Besides Adrian Clayborn and Paul Worrilow, no player stood out in pre-season more than Schofield. The former Seahawk was an essential part of an effective third-down pass rush. His speed and hand usage was evident through generating pressure. While Schofield will certainly be utilized as a pass-rusher, circumstances have changed following Brooks Reed's groin injury. He will now be starting at strong-side linebacker. Most defenses frequently line up in a nickel formation, given the landscape of pass-first teams in the NFL. Philadelphia is one of the few exceptions to that philosophy.
The signings of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews makes Philadelphia a run-first team that will run 25 to 30 times a game. Chip Kelly's fast paced offense will look to catch defenses off guard through utilizing their bruising duo of running backs. Atlanta will likely line up in their base defense more than any other game this season. Quinn will need Schofield to set the edge and fulfill his coverage responsibilities. Schofield was signed partially for his versatility from learning to play outside linebacker in Seattle. Kroy Biermann will likely rotate with him, due to Schofield's value as a situational pass rusher. They will look to keep him fresh, considering that he's never been a full-time starter. We've seen Schofield cause havoc as a pass-rusher. Now it will be time to see his athleticism and speed be tested as a strong-side linebacker through run support and coverage responsibilities.
Within a talented draft class, Tevin Coleman will be the rookie to watch
Vic Beasley's promising pre-season has generated even more buzz for his debut. Due to lining up against premier left tackle Jason Peters, expectations should be relatively low. Expectations should increase for his favorable matchup against Ereck Flowers next week. Coleman will be the rookie to watch through possibly playing an extended role. Devonta Freeman doesn't seem to be 100 percent yet, while Terron Ward isn't capable of being more than a short-yardage back at the moment. Coleman could be on the field for majority of the game.
The stat sheet won't do Coleman's performance any justice. With the offensive line lacking stability, it's highly unlikely that a productive running game will transpire against Philadelphia's front seven. The dynamic running back should be rated on his pass-blocking ability and patience through finding holes. Those holes will likely be restricted, due to the talent discrepancy between both teams inside the trenches. It only takes one hole for Coleman to break open a huge run. That could potentially be a game-changer in what should be a high-scoring game. Don't judge Coleman's performance based off his respective statistics against Philadelphia. His ability to make the most behind a makeshift offensive line and excelling in pass-blocking assignments will be essential towards his development.
Roddy White remaining as a dependable option
The 33-year old star has been ravaged by injuries over the past two seasons. After not missing a game for eight seasons, White has dealt with several hamstring and knee injuries. A recent elbow scope kept him from playing in pre-season. With buzz surrounding Leonard Hankerson and Justin Hardy, White has become somewhat overlooked. Monday night's favorable matchup should be a good platform for him to contribute in a significant way.
Byron Maxwell was signed to shadow the opposing team's top wide receiver. While he struggles to hang with Julio Jones, it seems likely that Nolan Carroll or Eric Rowe will cover White. Both cornerbacks can play in press coverage. How they contain such a crafty route-runner remains to be seen. White is clearly on the decline, but that hasn't taken away from his ability to make catches in traffic and withstand physicality at the line of scrimmage. Jones will likely receive plenty of targets and rack up catches against an overwhelmed Maxwell. Don't discount the possibility of White being productive against Philadelphia's questionable secondary.
Potential interior mismatch could be exploited
There aren't many flaws throughout Philadelphia's roster. Besides the secondary, you can argue that both guard positions are their biggest question marks. Jason Kelce is a standout at center, yet Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner have been relatively average throughout their respective careers. Barbre has played various positions throughout his career. Now faced with the unrealistic possibility of replacing Evan Mathis' proficiency, Barbre will need to gel with Jason Peters immediately.
The combination of Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn has already caught Kelly's attention. From Beasley's speed to Clayborn's violent style, they appear to be a force to be reckoned with on third downs. Jonathan Babineaux will be on the other side, who looks to be rejuvenated within a limited role. Paul Soliai and Ra'Shede Hageman will be depended on heavily to stifle Philadelphia's rushing attack. While both tackles and center are true standouts, Atlanta's interior line needs to win one-on-one matchups against Philadelphia's guards on a consistent basis. Expectations are high for each defensive tackle, particularly Hageman and Clayborn. They need to cause havoc in the backfield to force the game into Sam Bradford's hands.