Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones runs back to the bench after he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game in Atlanta. When Jones, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal take the field for Sunday's season opener at Minnesota, they'll be eager to show just what this team was missing when three of its defensive standouts went down with serious injuries.
Photo: AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File
Photo: AP Photo/Danny Karnik, File

Three key matchups: Eagles at Falcons 

Eagles QB Carson Wentz vs. Falcons FS Ricardo Allen: Wentz, who’s in his fourth-year in the NFL, is a master of the Eagles vaunted attack. He runs the read-pass option plays to near perfection and leans on tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the intermediate passing game. Now, he also has a new home run hitter in DeSean Jackson, who has 31 career touchdown passes of 50 yards or more. Allen, the quarterback of the Falcons’ defense, will have to match wits with Wentz. He’ll have to get the Falcons aligned properly. They’ll have to attack the RPOs and make sure that the speedy Jackson doesn’t get behind the secondary. “Allen is always in the middle of it all,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Directing traffic in the passing game this week, he’ll certainly be a factor, for sure. His recall, his ability to make plays, he is a factor in the middle of the field for us for sure.”

Eagles offensive tackles vs. Falcons defensive ends: Eagles tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson have been to 11 Pro Bowls. Peters, 37, has been to nine Pro Bowls. The Falcons’ Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley are coming off less than stellar performances against the Vikings. Both are standing up as outside linebackers in the Falcons’ 3-4 defense. “Jason Peters is one of the best,” Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said. “He’s done it for a long, long time now. He blocks the sun. He’s enormous.” Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons. “Lane Johnson is another good one, too,” Ulbrich said. “He’s extremely athletic and long. He’s one of the better right tackles in the league. But it’s the perfect challenge after playing the way we did.”
Eagles FS Malcolm Jenkins vs. Falcons RB Devonta Freeman and TE Austin Hooper: Jenkins, who spent his first five seasons with the Saints, is no stranger to the Falcons. He’s spent the past six years with the Eagles and picked up a Super Bowl LII  ring. He will guard Freeman and sometimes Hooper in the passing game. “He does a nice job with that,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “When they ask him to pressure, he does a great job with that, too.”


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