As the opening kickoff gradually approaches, it slowly sets in that a new administration will be getting underway in Atlanta. The era of Arthur Smith-Terry Fontenot as the latest head coach-general manager combo begins for the Falcons in a home season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
An Eagles team that is also ushering in a brand new head coach and a roster that is facing a decent number of internal questions about their future going forward. The Falcons will look to get their 2021 campaign off to a winning start so let’s break down their upcoming contest against the Eagles.
Game: Falcons vs. Eagles
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Time and television: Sept 12th, 1 p.m. EST, FOX
Key in-game matchup: Falcons offensive line vs. Eagles defensive line
There is no dancing around this one. Arguably the biggest question mark on the team for the Falcons will go head on against the strength of the Eagles defense. The Eagles veteran defensive line was a major reason why the defense ranked eighth in quarterback knockdowns, third in sacks, and sixth in total quarterback pressures.
Priority number one for the Falcons is to keep veteran quarterback Matt Ryan upright and clean as much as possible, which is a task much easier said than done for a Falcons unit that fought inconsistency for the entire 2020 season.
One key player to watch: Deion Jones
I’m sure many thought I would head in the direction of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts for this one. But I will allow the rookie to get his feet wet first. Instead, I am going to the defensive side of the ball.
Linebacker Deion Jones is going to be an integral part of a defensive group that will be blitzing more often than we can dream. Jones led the team in sacks last season with 4.5, tied for first on the team in tackles for loss and second in quarterback knockdowns. Given that he is the best athlete on the Falcons defense and that the Eagles deploy the likes of a mobile quarterback in Jalen Hurts and a nice piece of weaponry in running back Miles Sanders, Jones may have a busy afternoon awaiting him.
How the Falcons can win: Don’t let Hurts work magic
This is definitely a winnable game for the Falcons. There will be a number of mismatches to take advantage of on the offensive side of the ball. In addition, the well-respected defensive play caller Dean Pees made a reputation for being a thorn even in the side of Tom Brady. So expect Pees to be exotic and mix things up on the back for Hurts.
The formula to winning this particular game for the Falcons includes a disciplined front seven defending Hurts and not allowing him to gash the defense with his legs, create some takeaways against an Eagles offense that has plenty of questions marks surrounding their passing game and overall execution, and once again, keep Ryan well protected.