Philadelphia Eagles: Good luck with Fletcher Cox, Jalen Mayfield

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, as many as 10 members of the Philadelphia Eagles could make their NFL debut, 12 if you count Andre Chachere and Arryn Siposs, who have yet to earn a snap to this point in their respective careers.

For these players, Sunday presents opportunity, excitement, and the culmination of years of hard work, but as these things often go, things could turn tragic in a hurry.

From having to square up against more athletically talented foes to the increased speed of the game, to, um, it being harder to catch the ball because it lacks a white stripe (more on that head-scratcher here), many a rookie will experience their “welcome to the NFL moment” at some point in their first professional season, with it coming sooner for some than others.

For Atlanta Falcons rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield, his “welcome to the NFL moment” moment may just come on opening day, as first-year head coach Arthur Smith expects the third-round pick out of Michigan to get some serious run against the best in the biz, Fletcher Cox, when his team takes on the Philadelphia Eagles at Mercedes-Benz Arena this Sunday.

To quote Tennessee’s former OC, “everyone’s gotta get baptized at some point.”

The Philadelphia Eagles’ D-line has a clear edge over their Atlanta counterparts.

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As things presently stand, the Philadelphia Eagles have five starting defensive linemen on their depth chart.

Now granted, come Sunday, only four of those players will earn the official start, with either Derek Barnett or Josh Sweat being held out of the starting lineup and on-screen graphics package, but for all intents and purposes, the team will once again rely heavily on a defensive rotation, not unlike the one Jim Schwartz used during his tenure from 2016-20.

Assuming Marlon Tuipolutu and Tarron Jackson are game-day inactive, the Eagles will only have one rookie, Milton Williams, soaking up snaps in their defensive line rotation, with the rest of the minutes going to well-established veterans with thousands of snaps to their credit.

The same, fortunately, can not be said for the Atlanta Falcons, who boast of the less established offensive lines in the NFL today.

While the Falcons’ offensive line boasts three players selected in the first round plus Temple product Matt Hennessey, the unit only has one cumulative Pro Bowl appearance among them, and that honor was bestowed on Jake Matthews all the way back in 2018.

Last fall, the Falcons allowed 41 sacks in 16 games. Granted, the Eagles allowed more, 65 to be exact, but that was largely without their regular starters. Outside of Jalen Mayfield, the Falcons are returning four of their five starters from last season.

Factor in Matt Ryan’s immobility and the absence of his favorite receiver, Julio Jones, and the Philadelphia Eagles might just feast in their Sunday afternoon bout in the Peach State.

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If you don’t have a good offensive line, you don’t have a good offense in the NFL, and fans of the Philadelphia Eagles will eagerly attest. You can’t run the ball effectively, set up deep throws, and after a while, even the most veteran of quarterbacks will start to see ghosts in the pocket. While dominating in the trenches won’t guarantee the Philadelphia Eagles a win in their maiden contest of the 2021 NFL season, it’ll go a long way to making their lives easier, especially if Fletcher Cox lines up early and often over rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield.