The Falcons do not lack for weapons on offense with quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and Roddy White as well. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan finds himself in another NFL city and will look to improve upon his previous stops. Atlanta’s weakness is their offensive line. Left tackle Jake Matthews entering his second year is a very good player and the best of the bunch. Andy Levitre was acquired from the Titans at the end of preseason to possibly slide into the left guard spot. Joe Hawley anchors the line from center and veteran right guard Chris Chester is next to Hawley after spending a few seasons with the Redskins. Undrafted free agent Ryan Schraeder plays the other tackle position. The Eagles possess one of the best defensive lines in the league and will look to impose their will on the Falcons.
Cedric Thornton vs. Andy Levitre
Thornton plays the left side of the line in the Eagles 3-4 scheme. He will be lining up against Jake Matthews and more than likely Levitre who was traded by Tennessee. Thornton is one of the more underrated 3-4 ends in the league and very stout versus the run. The Falcons may look to establish the run early with new OC Kyle Shanahan. Levitre is still incredibly new to the system and might rotate with backup Mike Person. Either way Thornton has the clear advantage in this matchup. I think the Falcons will find it to be a challenge in the run game and should look to attack with their strengths at wide receiver.
Tevin Coleman vs. Eagles Inside Linebackers
Falcons starting running back Devonta Freeman has been nursing a hamstring injury which can be troublesome for skill position players. Coleman is a physical style runner who can bring a much needed attitude to the Falcons offense. He does not shy away from contact and has the game breaking speed which forces defense to game plan for him. The Eagles look to implement a three headed monster at inside linebacker with Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso and Demeco Ryans. All three have been in and out of the lineup during preseason with various injuries. I expect Alonso and Kendricks to see the majority of the snaps with Ryans coming off his second Achilles injury. As a whole they have not seen many snaps over the past month and may still need time to shake off the rust. Coleman will certainly be amped up for his first NFL game especially on Monday night. The Eagles can use that to their advantage as well looking to punch the ball out from the former Hoosier. I will be watching Coleman’s ability to pick up inside blitzes as well which Bill Davis likes to use Kendricks on.
Byron Maxwell vs. Julio Jones
This is the exact reason why Chip went right after Maxwell the first day of NFL free agency. While Maxwell might not line up opposite Jones on every snap I expect him to see a lion’s share of the coverage duties against the Falcons top wideout. Jones recently inked a rich five year contract extension and will undoubtedly be looking to prove his worth. Roddy White is no longer the favorite target of quarterback Matt Ryan. Jones is the guy Ryan will be looking to on key third downs. Maxwell is known for his physical style of play coming from Seattle’s Legion of Boom. New Falcons coach Dan Quinn is very familiar with Maxwell and will look to exploit the weaknesses in his game. Maxwell has been a vocal leader during the offseason which is another reason why he was brought in to overhaul the putrid secondary from 2014. Him and new defensive backs coach Corey Undlin have preached the importance of not giving up big plays and getting beat over the top. This message will be put to the test against Julio Jones on September 14th.
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