Opposition Beat: Talking Eagles-Falcons with Chris Dimino of Falcons Radio Network

Opposition Beat: Talking Eagles-Falcons with Chris Dimino of Falcons Radio Network

Each week during the 2012 season, we're hitting up some of the most knowledgeable people on the Internet when it comes to the Eagles' opponent that particular Sunday. This week we chat with Chris Dimino, a sports talk radio host and Falcons analyst for 790 The Zone in Atlanta.

Kulp: Quarterback Matt Ryan is off to the best start of his five-year career. The Exton, PA native is fourth in touchdown passes (14) and passer rating (98.8), and he's on pace to throw for over 4,600 yards. With the Falcons off to a 6-0 start, would you say Matty Ice is the front-runner to win league MVP honors?

Chris Dimino: Ah... the always coveted seven week MVP Award. His numbers say he's as good a choice as anyone. I think more importantly is what an MVP is/has. His team believes something good is going to happen RIGHT NOW. Matt has walked onto the field a few times where the non-MVP candidate wouldn't have gotten the first downs or found a way to be a reason the Falcons won a game late. He has that right now. Never have seen a season-long MVP who didn't have "it." That's what different about him right now.

The Falcons are ranked 29th in rushing offense and 27th in yards per attempt. Michael Turner doesn't look like an explosive runner anymore, and Jacquizz Rodgers isn't giving him much of a breather. Is Turner's decline and the lack of quality depth behind him the problem, and does he even still fit in Atlanta's pass-happy offense?

Those numbers are horrifyingly bad. They read like a total disclaimer to being a championship team. Good thing it's 2012. One-dimensional isn't a death knell these days. What it still is though is a recipe to have teams play you differently and attempt to take away your strength. I don't care about total yards rushing anymore -- from Turner, Rodgers, anyone. I DO care about an inability to get the one- or two- or three-yard first down on the ground. If I can play GM for a second... I'm on my second year of asking St. Louis what they want for Steven Jackson.

Asante Samuel was traded to the Falcons more or less because the Eagles wanted flexibility from their corners, and he only likes to play off-man coverage on the left side. It was also rumored the front office felt he was in decline. How has Samuel performed so far in Atlanta, and has there been any difficulty fitting him into a scheme?

Assante "paid" for himself (seventh-round pick) with his pick-six game-changer a couple of weeks ago. Ball hawking risk/reward guy -- I'll take a couple of them. He's the biggest talker this team has seen in this regime. In practice he doesn't shut up. But he's NOT Deangelo Hall who talked because he needed it to be about him. Samuel legitimately talks to get his whole unit up for the moment. And his acquisition lessened the blow of losing Brent Grimes and has made Dunta Robinson a better player because he has gotten to play the more inside attacking DB role.

Atlanta's defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL largely due to their claiming ownership of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Falcons are 28th in yards allowed, and 31st at 5.2 yards per attempt. However, it looks like they should get interior lineman Corey Peters back from a stress fracture this week. How far will his return go toward solving their problems?

Big-bodied, hard-working guys on the interior of a defensive line that has those rushing numbers should be picked up and driven to practice. He'll help as long as he's ready to play and stay on the field. Going one man deeper in your rotation is big. They have to fix the run D problem. Mike Nolan's defense is more react than read and react. More responsibility for DE's, LB's, and DB's. The interior guys need to body up to let those guys make plays closer to line of scrimmage.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.