We’re back for our second annual edition of the ‘Birds Eye View’ series. During this time, we explore each of the opponents on the Eagles schedule to identify if/how the team has improved or regressed.
In the end, we’ll look to see just how well the Eagles match up with said opposition heading into the 2021 season.
So as we often acknowledge — To BEAT the enemy, you have to KNOW the enemy.
Up first — The Atlanta Falcons. Shall we begin?
- Round 1, Pick 4: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
- Round 2, Pick 40: Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
- Round 3, Pick 68: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
- Round 4, Pick 108: Darren Hall, CB, San Diego State
- Round 4, Pick 114: Drew Dalman, IOL, Stanford
- Round 5, Pick 148: Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas
- Round 5, Pick 182: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, LB, Notre Dame
- Round 5, Pick 183: Avery Williams, CB, Boise State
- Round 6, Pick 187: Frank Darby, WR, Arizona State
In newly hired general manager Terry Fontenot’s first draft in Atlanta, he looked to set the tone for the future. With questions surrounding the quarterback position and Matt Ryan’s future in Atlanta had a choice to make. Sitting at four, the Falcons were in a prime quarterback, selecting a position in a group that was star-studded, to say the least, including a potential hometown hero in Justin Fields. Instead, Atlanta opted to take what I considered to be the 3rd best player in the entire draft with Kyle Pitts, making an already potent offense a bit more dangerous.
As the rich get richer offensively, Atlanta also came away with a few guys that should help a defense that ranked 29th in total yards allowed. Most notable of the group is standout safety Richie Grant who should help fill the void of the position that saw multiple players lost in free agency. Players such as Avery Willams and Darren Hall may become impact players sooner rather than later as they join a cornerback room full of inexperienced players still in the midst of development. While last year’s first-round pick AJ Terrell may find himself entrenched as the teams CB1, Williams and Hall should have an opportunity to compete for snaps against the likes of Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver.
- Mike Davis
- Duron Harmon
- Erik Harris
- Brandon Copeland
- Josh Andrews
- Jonathan Bullard
- Fabian Moreau
- Wli Ankou
- Cordarrelle Patterson
- Lee Smith
- Barkevious Mingo
- Alex Mack
- Ricardo Allen
- Todd Gurley
- Keanu Neal
- Charles Harris
- Damontae Kazee
- Brandon Powell
- Justin McCray
- Brian Hill
- Darqueze Dennard
- Ito Smith
About the Team
Players to Watch:
With the speculation now over and a Julio Jones trade is taken care of, Atlanta is ready to turn to the next chapter and build a roster suitable to the standards of new head coach Arthur Smith. While no offense would like to see a key contributor permanently removed from the equation, the Falcons are one of the few teams with inhouse talent capable of filling the void left behind by the perennial all-pro receiver.
Oddly enough, the argument can be made coming off a strong season, Calvin Ridley has already eclipsed Julio Jones as WR1 in Atlanta.
Don’t believe it? Well, there are some strong numbers to back it up.
Calvin Ridley’s on/off splits with/without Julio Jones. Basically he’s a WR1 regardless. pic.twitter.com/scgV2dzCNt
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) May 24, 2021
Following a season that saw Ridley produce 1,374 receiving yards, catching nine touchdowns on 90 receptions, and lead the NFL in 20+ yard receptions, is it fair to expect the fourth-year star to replicate this production as the bonafide WR1? And if so, how long will it take for him to etch his name amongst the league’s elite? Either way, it’s safe to assume Ridley will be a focal point of the Falcons offense this season.
While Calvin Ridley will be the face of the Atlanta passing attack, all eyes will be on what many consider the main attraction. Just one day before the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that head coach Arthur Smith has become “more and more enamored” with Kyle Pitts. So it wasn’t a surprise to many to see that with the fourth overall pick, the Falcons selected the 6’6/245lb offensive specimen out of Florida, especially once you take into account Smith and how history has proven his affinity to create mismatches across the field using his tight ends in many different alignments.
Over the last two seasons under the tutelage of Arthur Smith, former Titans tight end Jonnu Smith became a high priority in the Tennessee offense averaging over eight yards per target, doubling his touchdown total from years one to two, and even was used as a runner on occasions. When discussing Kyle Pitts, position-less football is often mentioned due to his ability to win no matter where and deployed. Here is a breakdown of how both Jonnu Smith and Kyle Pitts spent their alignments this past season.
With a similar mold in place, could it be possible that Arthur Smith has laid down the blueprint for how his newest weapon will affect the offense?
Season Betting Odds
- Win Total: 7.5 wins (over -110/under -110
- Win NFC South: +800
- Win NFC: +2500
- Win Super Bowl: +6000
- Make the playoffs: Yes +240/No -305
All odds via Draftbook Sportskings
The Falcons and the Eagles will open the season in a matchup of two teams looking to turn the tide following mediocre 2020 seasons. Philadelphia has plenty of questions surrounding the secondary, most notably who will start opposite of Darius Slay. This could present a problem as the Birds head to Mercedes Benz Stadium to take on one of the better passing offenses the team will face this year. With Atlanta trading its franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards, Julio Jones, to the Tennessee Titans, it’s possible the task may have gotten a bit easier.
Of course, when you don’t have to face a player with six consecutive 100-yard performances (an NFL record for a player against a single opponent) against you, that should help better your chances. However, just because a task gets easier doesn’t make it any less daunting. We may find out early and often just what newly hired defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon is made of.
As for a silver lining? If Nick Sirianni can help improve an Eagles offense that ranked at or near the back of the league in most of its offensive categories, well, things could begin to get a bit more interesting.
Mostly because, well…. the Falcons defense just isn’t that good.
It should be an improved group, but that’s only based on how horrible of a unit they have been as of late. There is still no reliable pass rush, which in turn will only make things more difficult for a secondary that is full of young and inexperienced players, each of whom is learning a new scheme.
If the Philadelphia offense can show even the slightest sign of life, then it’s possible that this game could turn into a shootout where the last team to score wins.
Not a bad way to open the season for two teams who are expected to be bottom dwellers in their respective divisions.
Featured Image: NFL