Eagles: How Jalen Hurts can take advantage of a subpar Atlanta defense

As is the case with any Week 1 game in the NFL, there are several story lines to pay attention for each team. But the No. 1 narrative for the Eagles this season is a pretty obvious one. All eyes will be on quarterback Jalen Hurts from the opening snap.

Has he improved on his accuracy? Has his decision making been ironed out? How will Nick Sirianni utilize Hurts’ skill set? All these questions will be answered by the end of Week 1’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons.

Out of every defense Hurts has faced in the NFL thus far, the Falcons are the weakest. Hurts should be able to take advantage of their subpar secondary and make things happen with his legs when plays break down.

Here are two reasons why Hurts may be in for a big game in Week 1.

Weak secondary

As stated earlier, Atlanta’s backend on defense leaves a lot to be desired. They had one of the worst pass defenses in football last season.

Atlanta allowed 66 passes to go over 20 yards, the most of any defense in the NFL. They also gave up 34 passing touchdowns, third-most of any defense in the league last season.

Obviously, head coach Dan Quinn is no longer in town, so the defense won’t look like it did in year’s past. Not to mention they acquired three new starters for their secondary this season, Fabian Moreau at corner and Duron Harmon and Erik Harris at safety. Nevertheless, those additions don’t drastically improve this secondary.

A.J. Terrell, the lone starter in Atlanta’s secondary that carried over from last year, was horrendous in coverage in 2020. He allowed 71 total receptions, 6 touchdowns, a passer rating of 109.6 along with a completion percentage of 67 percent when targeted. Granted, he was a rookie last season and rookie corners tend to struggle early on. But I don’t see him being able to keep up with DeVonta Smith for a full four quarters.

The completions will be there for Hurts this week. the aforementioned Smith should be able to get open early and often, but we can’t forget about the tight end duo of Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz. Atlanta doesn’t have the personnel to matchup with one great tight end, let alone two.

Subpar pass rush

Aside from defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, the Falcons don’t pose much of a threat in the pass rushing category. Atlanta only accumulated 29 sacks as a team last year. They were able to generate pressure at a solid rate, posting a pressure percentage of 23.6 percent, but failing to actually take the quarterback down hurt the Falcons defense all year in 2020.

Facing a mobile quarterback like Hurts, those shortcomings should be magnified for Atlanta. Hurts did a nice job avoiding pressure in 2020 and he routinely torched defenses with his legs when a play broke down. Not to mention his entire offensive line is entering the year healthy, something he never had in his four starts last season.

A subpar pass rush, coupled with down right bad secondary play is a recipe for disastrous defense. On paper, Atlanta’s defense is one of worst defensive units the Eagles will face this season.

If Hurts fails to put up points against this team on Sunday, we may be in for a long season as Eagles fans.

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