The start of the new season is finally here! Monday night the new-look Atlanta Falcons will host the Philadelphia Eagles to start the 2015 season.
Both teams have adjusted rosters. The Falcons have a new man in charge, Dan Quinn, who will make his debut as a NFL head coach. With him is a rebooted roster, with almost half the 53-man roster being brand new.
Chip Kelly will start his third season as Philadelphia’s head coach. He’s made the adjustment from college, after coaching Oregon for four seasons. Kelly had two 10-win seasons and still made drastic changes to his roster. He’s now in charge of the personnel, and Kelly decided to put his stamp on the roster.
Kelly traded quarterback Nick Foles (to the Rams for Sam Bradford) and running back LeSean McCoy (to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso). Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin left for Kansas City and then Kelly blew out his secondary.
The Eagles were awful last year giving up big plays, giving up more pass plays of 20 yards or more in the NFL. So Philadelphia signed two members of Quinn’s former secondary in Seattle – cornerback Bryon Maxwell and safety Walter Thurmon.
That’s the pair that will have to stop Atlanta’s Julio Jones Monday night. With questions remaining about the Falcons’ running game, quarterback Matt Ryan will have to establish the pass with Jones being his main target. Can the Eagles slow down Jones? Well, the new members of their secondary must step up.
Tevin Coleman will get the start for the Falcons at running back, and everyone is eager to see exactly what he can do as the feature back. Philadelphia nose guard Bennie Logan will try to stop Coleman. The Eagles will try to put pressure on Ryan, and Atlanta’s offensive line must stop Eagles’ defensive end Fletcher Cox.
Obviously, Atlanta’s new-look offensive line will be watched closely tonight. Mike Person has never started a game in the NFL. He’ll make his debut as the starting center. Chris Chester and Andy Levitre are the new guards, with returning tackles Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder.
The Eagles will have Kelly’s high-powered offense ready with new players. Bradford is the quarterback, and if he can stay healthy he could be productive in this system. But he’s played in only seven games the past two seasons.
Kelly brought in Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last year, to replace McCoy. Former Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews must help replace Maclin, while the Eagles took USC receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round of the draft.
The Falcons have put an emphasis on rushing the passer all during the preseason. We’ll see if rookie Vic Beasley can upset Bradford in the opener. And can Adrian Clayborn come of the edge as well in his first game with Atlanta?
This game looks like it could be a shootout, as both offenses have tremendous potential to put points on the board. Will either defensive unit step up and make the big play late in the game? That could determine the winner of Monday’s season opener at the Georgia Dome.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Falcons set to face the Eagles
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