MONDAY 7:10 Georgia Dome Atlanta, Georgia
THE mission in 2015 is to make it to the playoffs and see what happens once we get there. Yeah, I know the mission is supposed to be the Super Bowl, but let’s take it one step at a time. The first step is winning the NFC East. Last year we went 10-6 and straight home, while the Panthers went 7-8-1 and saw the playoffs because they “won” their division. So winning the division is step one, because the Wildcard gods are fickle bitches and we don’t want them deciding the fate of our season.
That said, if we’re to win the division we need to leave trail of broken teams, twitching in agony for trying to stand in our way. The first volunteer for the ICU is the Atlanta Falcons.
We didn’t see a whole lot from our pass rush this preseason, but we had no problem with that last year and we’ll return everyone except Trent Cole from last year’s unit. OLB Conner Barwin put 14.5 sacks on the board last year and there’s no reason to think he can’t do about the same in 2015.
We finished in the middle of the pack (ranked 15th) stopping the run last year but there are two ways to read that. This is Week One, so let’s be optimistic and say that last year was a building block year, and that we expect significantly better results (1st – 11th) by year’s end.
There has been no indication that we will rely less on the Cover One and Cover Three concepts that have hampered our pass defense over these last two years (ranked 32nd – 31st). I see no reason to believe that faulty concepts will make us any better in coverage this year, despite the turnover in our personnel.
This team can score points. Part of it is the gimmicky (almost cartoonish) version of the Hurry-Up that we run. Part of it is the brilliant spacing concepts that create wide open receivers. However, all of it is based on deception and that unfortunately has made us a finesse team.
Good teams began figuring that out last year, so our team went out and changed the mindset of our run game by changing to RB’s with a more physical running style. However, considering that this didn’t change the way the Offensive Line blocks, it’s more a change in how runs are executed and less a change in our running concept itself. Put bluntly, it’s just window dressing. But here’s hoping it still fools lesser teams!
Much is expected of the passing game this year, as QB Nick Foles was traded for this year’s model Sam Bradford.
There was concern that our Offensive Line would take a significant step back this year, since we lost both of our 2014 starting Guards. However, their preseason performances did not indicate any noticeable decline. We can only hope that holds up to games planning.
Only one team in the NFL was worse than us vs the pass last year. Care to guess who they are? They grabbed an anemic 22 sacks in 2014 which is likely why they drafted LB Vic Beasley #8 overall. They also finished near the bottom vs the run. The biggest thing they did in the offseason was lose Osi Umenyiora.
They boast an accurate and reliable field general in QB Matt Ryan (born in Exton**, schooled here in Philly), and an extremely dangerous WR in Julio Jones. When WR Roddy White is healthy this can be a lethal passing attack.
One area this team does not excel at is anything that has to do with blocking. They already weren’t very good last year, but they seem to have taken a huge step back in 2015. This preseason vs no scheming, they surrendered 14 sacks in 4 games. That projects out to 56 over a 16 game season. Considering that Ryan is not a very mobile QB, there is an excellent chance that they may get him killed this year. On 108 carries they posted a 2.6 ypc average running the ball.
This game could be a shootout early, but Atlanta’s Offensive Line is atrocious. Unless we give up a ton of quick, cheap and easy completions, the Falcons simply won’t be able to protect their QB well enough to hang in a fire-fight.
EAGLES 37 – Falcons 21
** (That Exton reference was for you Andrea)