Philadelphia Eagles News

Thoughts On Day Of 2015 Opener

ATLANTA -- Midnight green is everywhere in this city. Eagles fans have come by plane, train and automobile to usher in the 2015 season, and the collective thinking goes something like this: "I haven't been this excited since ... It feels special this year."

It's a great atmosphere for the opener in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons are building a new stadium next door to the Georgia Dome, and it's expected to be open next year, so this is the Eagles' final regular season game here. So let's take a trip in the way-back machine before digging into tonight's game: The Eagles opened the Georgia Dome in the 1992 preseason and the place was jumping. Hammer performed prior to the game. John Denver sang the national anthem. Every seat was filled.

Atlanta treated the game like a carnival. Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham was back after suffering the knee injury in 1991 and the pre-game hype got his energy up for the exhibition game.

"I was holding back in this game," Cunningham said. "But I saw (rap star) Hammer before the game, and he sort of pumped me up, and I felt good. So I went out there and just played like I normally play. I had fun."

Awesome. David Archer was the backup quarterback for the Eagles that day; he's now Atlanta's radio analyst.

And the game meant nothing, in the scheme of things. Tonight's means a lot. So let's talk about it ...

  • Still no word on tight end Zach Ertz, who is listed as questionable to play. It would not be a surprise if he misses this game and then gets a full week of work in prior to Dallas. Ertz was limited for much of the week in practice and we've seen players who come back too quickly. Ertz could play, but there is no reason to bring him back unless he is 100 percent ready to go.
  • Who plays nickel cornerback for the Eagles? That's still not clear. The Eagles know that safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond can play it, and if the coaches decide to go in that direction they would likely use Chris Maragos as the third safety. Or, Nolan Carroll can slide inside and E.J. Biggers or Eric Rowe can play outside. We'll find out early. No doubt the Falcons are going to try to test this secondary. The Eagles are stout against the run and Atlanta's offensive line has been re-worked this week, anyway. Look for a lot of quick throws from quarterback Matt Ryan and an occasional maximum protection scheme that gives Ryan time to look for his talented wide receivers.
  • Rookie running back Tevin Coleman is an extremely talented player. Don't sleep on him. He's got burst, some power and he was beyond productive in college. Coleman can catch the football, too. The Eagles can't let Coleman and the Atlanta running game generate momentum. They need to put Ryan in some third-and-long situations.
  • The loss of linebacker Brooks Reed is big for Atlanta. He's replaced by speed rusher O'Brien Schofield, and right tackle Lane Johnson has to be ready for that rush off the edge from Schofield. The Eagles can run at Schofield, though, and see how he fares against the power ground game.
  • Phillip Adams is the nickel cornerback for Atlanta and at 5-11, 195 pounds he has some size to go against Jordan Matthews. That's an intriguing matchup. Matthews had an electric summer and has elevated his game after a strong rookie season. He's big and strong and playing very fast football. He's going to be a huge weapon in the middle of the field. Atlanta's strength on defense is cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. Remember the pre-draft hype for LSU cornerback Jalen Collins? He's a backup in Atlanta, learning the game very much the same way as Rowe for the Eagles.
  •  The Eagles don't have to deal with Devin Hester returning kicks or using his speed in the passing game. He may not be at the level he once was, but Hester is still a weapon. He's out with a toe injury. Eric Weems is expected to return punts for the Falcons.
  • What to expect from quarterback Sam Bradford in this game? It's not fair to think that he's going to engineer a touchdown drive every time he's on the field, but Bradford has a high level of confidence in the offense and how he fits here. Watch early and see how quickly he sets his feet and delivers the football. There are going to be some jitters, no doubt. The Georgia Dome is loud and rowdy. Wouldn't surprise me to see the Eagles come out with the running game.
  • Darren Sproles is going to be an impact player here. I just feel it.
  • Good test for center Jason Kelce and guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner. Atlanta's interior defense is tough. The running lanes will be challenging to open. Atlanta will likely try to take away the run early and challenge Bradford to beat those cornerbacks. The scheme is the same as the one in Seattle, and it's not overly complicated. The personnel in Seattle, of course, is a bit different. Head coach Dan Quinn, the former defensive coordinator with the Seahawks, is hoping to replicate what he had in Seattle.
  • The State Of The NFC East: Washington opened with a dud loss to Miami, and Dallas rallied to beat the Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys, however, won't have wide receiver Dez Bryant (broken bone in foot) or defensive end Randy Gregory (high-ankle sprain) when they visit Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. We'll talk about that later in the week. Tonight, the Eagles have a tricky road opener. This one shouldn't be as easy as some think. How many tricks will the Falcons pull out in Quinn's head-coaching debut?
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