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PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 12: Kenneth Gainwell #14 and Jalen Hurts #1 of the Philadelphia Eagles embrace against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

By Tom Alvord

 

We did it. We finally made it. After 7 long, excruciating months NFL Week 1 is finally here.

The 2021 season opens up this Thursday in Tampa Bay as Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers take on the powerhouse Dallas Cowboys. Those same Cowboys who finished last year with an outstanding 6-10 record (in the worst division in football) and have three playoff wins since 1996. Very deserving.

As excited as we all are for the official start of football Thursday night; Sunday afternoon is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The return of the Philadelphia Eagles. There are obviously a ton of questions about this Eagles team going forward. Can Nick Sirianni coach? Is Miles Sanders a three-down back? Is Jalen Hurts the quarterback of the future? Questions we hope can be answered throughout this new 17 game season, starting Sunday in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Let’s be honest. Both teams were abysmal last season. The Falcons finished last in the NFC South with a 4-12 record while the Eagles finished 4-11-1 at the bottom of the NFC East. However, it’s a new season. A fresh start. As both squads begin their year let’s take a look at how the teams matchup on the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback

We’re all excited to see what Jalen Hurts can do this season. That’s obvious. We saw a ton of flashes last year that made us believe Hurts can be a franchise QB in this league. We also saw some things that reminded us why he had a fourth round draft grade. Matt Ryan on the other hand is on the back-nine of his career. There is a reason why the Falcons were reportedly looking into quarterbacks with the #4 overall pick. GM Terry Fontenot ultimately decided to give it a go with Ryan for one more season. However when it comes down to it, for this individual game you have to go with the sure thing. Jalen Hurts has all the potential in the world, but he has just 4 starts under his belt and has played just two drives this preseason. Not to mention all of this with a brand-new, first year head coach. Matt Ryan is a former MVP who is going into his 15th season with the same team. He’s not the same player he used to be, but there’s much less uncertainty in Atlanta going into game one.

Verdict: Atlanta Falcons

 

Running Back

The Falcons brought in Panthers backup Mike Davis this offseason and are planning on making him the every down guy. In 6 seasons Davis has never eclipsed more than 650 yards or more than 170 carries. Miles Sanders, himself, is by no means a sure thing either. He had a very promising rookie season but struggled a bit in year two. Despite having some issues with drops and pass protection he’s still one of the most explosive backs in the league. The Eagles also have some nice depth with third-down back Boston Scott and rookie Kenneth Gainwell. The Falcons on the other hand have former wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as their RB2. Both groups have a lot to prove, but one has much more talent.

Verdict: Philadelphia Eagles

 

Wide Receivers 

The past few years this answer would be a no- brainer. The Falcons have had arguably the best receiver in the league on their roster since 2011. However Julio Jones is now in Tennessee and former first round pick Calvin Ridley is slotted as the number 1 guy. He put up huge numbers last year, but we’ll see how an entire season without Julio Jones treats him. Their WR2 Russell Gage also had a nice season last year racking up 786 yards and 4 TDs. Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Tajae Sharpe finish out their WR room. The Eagles on the other hand have a lot of unknowns at the receiver position. Devonta Smith has unlimited potential. Quez Watkins was the star of the preseason. Jalen Reagor was a first rounder just a year ago. But no receiver on the active roster has caught more than 420 yards in a season. I think the Eagles have better depth and Devonta Smith could be a star, but Calvin Ridley is arguably a top 10 receiver in the NFL right now.

Verdict: Atlanta Falcons

 

Tight Ends

When you talk about potential alone, the answer is the Atlanta Falcons. Kyle Pitts was selected #4 overall in April’s draft after being touted as one of the best tight end prospects in the last decade. He has unlimited potential and will be lined up all over the field as early as Week 1. However, the Eagles have two sure things. Yes, Zach Ertz had a bad year last season posting the highest drop percentage of his career. But just two years ago he had 88 catches and 916 yards. Dallas Goedert is a former 2nd round pick who has shown big time potential while improving every year. This could change halfway through the season, but right now it’s an easy answer.

Verdict: Philadelphia Eagles

 

Offensive Line

This one is not particularly close. The Eagles offensive line was a disaster last season, that’s true. They started 14 different offensive line combinations in 16 games. Something that doesn’t even seem possible. But they can’t possibly be as bad as they were last year. Offensive line has been a strength of the Eagles for half a decade now led by Jeff Stoutland, arguably the best O-Line coach in the NFL. There are some big questions marks when it comes to the health of Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, but by all accounts they are 100% healthy heading into the season. Jason Kelce put retirement on hold for one more year and is still a top tier center heading into his 11th season. Jordan Mailata has NFL gurus drooling and Isaac Seumalo has been an average starter for most of his career. Even coming off a down year Pro Football Focus ranks the Eagles’ O-Line as the 13th best in the NFL. They rank the Falcons 24th. Depth, talent, potential; this isn’t close.

Verdict: Philadelphia Eagles