Editor’s Note: Staff writer Steve Fini breaks down the Eagles’ offensive matchups against the Falcons’ defense.
I said last week that the Rams were a blitzing type of defense that gets after teams and they proved that. The Falcons do not. They, like the Eagles this year, want to pressure opponents with their front four. They have the personnel to do it. John Abraham, although older, is still a force rushing the passer. He still has a quick first step and the veteran knowledge to beat a tackle with his technique. The Falcons also added veteran defensive end Ray Edwards, a player that was on the wish list of many Eagles fans this past offseason. He is big, physical, and can dominate at times. But Edwards also has a tendency disappear, as he did last week. While Abraham had two sacks against the Bears, Edwards only registered only one tackle. Those two, along with defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, could wreak havoc on Michael Vick.
The Falcons’ linebackers are very inconsistent. Curtis Lofton was second on the team in tackles last week and has been solid as a starter, but he isn’t “the guy”. That title belongs to Sean Witherspoon, who actually led the team in tackles. Witherspoon is another player many Eagles fans had on their wish lists a few years ago. He is a physically gifted athlete with the size to stop the run and the speed to excel in coverage. For whatever reason, he just hasn’t lived up to his potential to this point. I think he is the type of young player that the Eagles could take advantage of in this game because he sometimes over pursues and is still a work in progress. The Eagles should look to get LeSean McCoy matched up with Witherspoon in the passing game.
Now onto what has to be the clear weakness of the Atlanta defense–the secondary. Atlanta has decent players, but struggled late last season (and last week) defending against the big play. Last week Desean Jackson came up big against a St. Louis secondary that had difficulty matching up with the Eagles’ various weapons. The Falcons are a little different. Dunta Robinson was a big signing for them (remember he laid the hit on Jackson that led to his concussion). He is also a pretty good cover corner. He hasn’t had the impact that Atlanta had hoped for so far, but he’s solid and can play both the run and pass. Brent Grimes starts opposite of Robinson. He was a pro-bowler last year, although that was mainly because of his return ability. He isn’t a physical player and is on the smallish side but he makes plays on the ball when he has the chance. A deciding factor of this game will be if Jackson can out-duel Grimes in the speed category. If that happens, the Eagles will be able to move both him and Jeremy Maclin around to create size/speed mismatches on both corners all day.