There’s no mistaking what Week 1 of the 2019 Philadelphia Eagles season will be remembered for -Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson. For the returning Wentz (from injury), 313 yards and 3 touchdowns through highlighted his terrific day. For the returning Jackson (to Philadelphia), 154 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns sent South Philadelphia into a frenzy.
Week 2 may not be quite the same.
In the first half, as the entire offense was struggling, the offensive line also struggled to open up any running lanes whatsoever for Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and 36-year-old Darren Sproles. In fact, Sproles led the team in carries for most of the game until Sanders received more of a workload late and finished with 11.
This struggle turned by the 4th quarter as Howard and Sanders began to rip off chunks of yards as the Eagles were closing out the game. This sounds like Football 101, but Doug Pederson’s system is truly at its best when multiple running backs are being used early and often and can get in a rhythm. It was evident throughout 2017 with LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement, and it was evident late in Sunday’s game. One might think the Eagles can continue this momentum if they could run into (pun intended) an opponent that will concede yards on the ground and allow the offensive line and collection of running backs to have their way.
Enter the Atlanta Falcons.
Plain and simple, The Falcons got steamrolled in Minnesota last week. Atlanta allowed Minnesota’s running backs to gash them for 168 yards on 32 carries for a 5.3 yards-per-carry average. Dalvin Cook led the group with 111 of those yards. Vikings’ QB Kirk Cousins, who finished 4th in the NFL last season in pass attempts in an offense that lacked any balance whatsoever, threw only ten passes. Ten passes all game long. That’s how little his services were needed as the Vikings dominated on the ground. In addition, going back to last season, Atlanta finished 28th in the NFL in yards-per-carry allowed with 4.9.
There’s not much to overthink here. The Falcons are incredibly vulnerable vs. the run and have been for some time. Jordan Howard flashed power and vision late in Sunday’s game. Miles Sanders flashed explosiveness and elusiveness. The Eagles offensive line should be able to dominate this game in the trenches. The Eagles can’t afford to only give Howard 6 carries, or Sanders just 11, and make Carson Wentz drop back 40+ times on the road. If Pederson commits to the run, either Sanders or Howard can easily go over 100 yards rushing in this game and, with Sproles and even Corey Clement mixed in, the Eagles can easily reach the 150-200 yard range as a team as Minnesota did.
Week 1 was all about Carson Wentz, DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles’ electrifying passing game. Week 2 needs to be the game Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders announce themselves to the league. Going on the road, on Sunday Night Football, in the Falcons’ home opener, a good way to suck the life out of the crowd and the Atlanta defense is to do exactly what Minnesota did. It’s not a difficult recipe to follow.
It is entirely possible as the season goes on that the Eagles lean on Wentz and the passing attack to carry their offense, as they should. However, the recipe for Sunday Night in Atlanta is far too obvious. If the Eagles are standing tall at the end of the game, there’s a good chance that the national audience was both reminded who Jordan Howard is and introduced to who Miles Sanders is.