Bring it on!
The Falcons, under first-year head coach Dan Quinn, are set to debut against the Philadelphia Eagles, who will bring their up-tempo offense to the season opener at 7:10 p.m. Monday at the Georgia Dome.
“We’re built for speed and quickness in terms of what we do,” Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith said. “We practice it every day. Our terms are one-word terms. We don’t have hard, complicated verbal communications. … The speed and tempo, yeah, that’s what (the Eagles) do for a living and that’s what we do for a living.”
The Eagles, after posting consecutive 10-6 seasons, ripped up their roster and recalibrated. This will be their first game since trading for quarterback Sam Bradford and dumping running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Quinn was hired to replace Mike Smith, the winningest coach in franchise history, and breathe some life into a moribund defense, which ranked last in the NFL in 2014.
Quinn, Seattle’s former defensive coordinator, has tried to infuse the rebuilt unit with some enthusiasm to play a fast and physical style of football. The unit will feature five new starters.
“We watched every game they’ve played the last few years,” Smith said. “We know who they are. They know what plays they are going to run and we do, too. The thing is … they execute it. They are pretty good at it.”
Falcons left cornerback Desmond Trufant, who played at the University of Washington, has some experience facing the Eagles’ attack, which coach Chip Kelly brought with him from his days as Oregon’s head coach.
“The up-tempo is real,” Trufant said. “They definitely are fast-paced.”
Trufant has been helping to spread the word to his fellow defenders.
“They like to get on the ball real quick,” he said. “They don’t do too much as far as the complexity of the scheme because they are doing it so fast. They are so fast that if you don’t read your keys or are in the right alignment or you’re not communicating, that’s when they get people off track.”
Communication is one of those one-word commands that will be critical.
“We’re going to get our cleats in the grass and attack,” Quinn said. “It’s similar to how they play. It’s a terrific matchup.”
After an active offseason, the Eagles have several new weapons in Bradford and running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. They drafted wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round of the draft to go with slot receiver Jordan Matthews, scatback Darren Sproles and tight end Brent Celek.
The offensive line was remade, but is still anchored by seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters at left tackle.
Kelly thought Bradford was a perfect for his offense. He traded away quarterback Nick Foles and two draft picks to St. Louis to land the often-injured former No. 1 overall pick.
“We played a lot of the no-huddle my last couple of years at Oklahoma,” Bradford said. “It’s something that I’m really got accustomed to and I really enjoyed playing at a fast pace.”
He completed 86.7 percent of his passes in the exhibition season. Bradford made good use of his offensive options and likes his trio of running backs.
“They are all different in the way that they run the football,” Bradford said. “I think for defenses, that it makes it tough. … Having three running backs of that caliber is really one of our biggest advantages on offense.”
Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow, the team’s leading tackler the past two seasons, believes the key to stopping the Eagles is to control the running backs.
“You have to take notice of them and be ready for what they bring and their styles of running,” Worrilow said.
The Falcons have a deep scouting report on Sproles from his days with the Saints (2011-13).
“We know what we are getting out of (No.) 43,” safety William Moore said. “He’s a heck of a player.”
Moore, who missed some of the exhibition season with a calf injury, is looking forward to the task.
“Just expect fast ball, a lot of trickery, a lot of movement and a lot of motion,” Moore said. “It’s more about us getting lined up and playing fast.”
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