By Kevin McGuire
The months and months of waiting are just about over, and it is time to play some football once again. The new look Philadelphia Eagles hope to get started on what could be a run to the NFC East Division title on Monday night on the road against the Atlanta Falcons. Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray will make their Eagles debuts as Chip Kelly gets his third season as head coach underway. The Eagles will be tasked with ensuring their defensive secondary has improved as they go up against Matt Ryan and the Falcons.READ MORE: Philadelphia School District Students, Staff To Resume Masking As COVID Cases Continue To Rise In City
The Falcons are coming off a disappointing 6-10 season in 2014, and a 2-2 mark in preseason play this summer. The Eagles lead the all-time series with the Falcons by a mark of 17-13-1, with the most recent meeting coming in 2012. The Eagles are riding a two-game winning streak against Atlanta and are 8-7 all-time in games played down south. The Falcons did win the most recent meeting in Atlanta, defeating Philadelphia 35-31 in 2011. The Eagles led 31-24 entering the fourth quarter but Atlanta scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the Eagles home with a loss.
Falcons on Offense
When it comes to the Falcons the offense starts with franchise quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has plenty of skill but his inability to lead the Falcons to a big win has been well documented at this stage in his career. Protecting the franchise quarterback is always a mandatory requirement, but this franchise has shuffled its offensive line a bit and protecting their QB may become an issue. When Ryan odes get a chance to throw, he has a solid target on one side with Julio Jones bringing good size and hands to the field.
Roddy White is another option for the Falcons, but he remains questionable for the season opener against Philadelphia. So is starting running back Devonta Freeman. With the Falcons being banged up at key positions and the offensive line changes, the Falcons could be a bit of a mess when they face the Eagles defense.
Falcons on Defense
Atlanta will look to slow down Philadelphia’s offense with a 4-3 look, and it is one with a potential breakout star in the making. Atlanta has rookie Vic Beasley out of Clemson at left defensive end ready to. Beasley may have to adjust some things to have an impact at the NFL level, but he is not lacking in confidence heading into his first game. Atlanta can also use him at linebacker. Atlanta’s secondary used to be a solid core for the defense, but the Falcons were dead last in the NFL in passing defense last season, allowing 279.9 yards per game. This is an area the Eagles need to test early and often.
Atlanta’s Players to Watch
QB Matt Ryan: The Exton, PA native enters his eight season in the NFL. Already a three-time Pro Bowl player, Ryan is still looking for some validation as a starting quarterback. Getting off to a win against the Eagles would be a good first step this season.
DE Vic Beasley: As mentioned above, the Falcons have a brand new defensive end to mold into a franchise player. After being drafted in the top 10 of the 2015 NFL Draft, that is the expectation for the former Clemson standout. Beasley can be a monster off the edge, but much he will be used in his NFL debut remains to be seen.
The Falcons could be in a rough position to open the season when they face the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles showed off improved defensive play in the preseason, and that may not be good news for the Falcons in the opener. If this game was being played later in the season perhaps it is a different story. Given the question marks with the offensive line and some key players being banged up, it just feels like a bad match-up for the Falcons. The Eagles are looking ready to come home with a season-opening victory in the ATL.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.