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.

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova vs. La Salle: Wildcats look to stay hot vs. Explorers at Palestra

No. 1 Villanova (8-0) at La Salle (4-2) 
7 p.m. at The Palestra

Villanova, now the top-ranked team in the country, travels to the Palestra on Tuesday night for another Big 5 game, this one against La Salle (the home team), which has won three straight games.

Let's get you ready for the matchup:

Last time out
La Salle beat Bucknell, 83-73, on Saturday.

Villanova won, 88-47, over Saint Joseph’s.

Scouting report
Villanova, which is undefeated, has become the No. 1 team in the country after beating St. Joe’s handily on Saturday. Josh Hart, who had a triple-double in the game, has been a major reason for the Wildcats' success so far this season. The senior is averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. 

La Salle has won three games in a row after losing at the buzzer to Texas Southern on its homecoming game. Against Bucknell, Jordan Price had 20 points, while B.J. Johnson had 22. Johnson, a transfer from Syracuse, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game.

What it means
Villanova is the best in the country right now, and it moved up to No. 1 after Kentucky lost to UCLA. Another win will give the Wildcats good momentum heading into their Saturday matchup with No. 23 Notre Dame. A victory would also extend Villanova's all-time record Big 5 winning streak to 16 games.

La Salle head coach John Gianinni could potentially be on the hot seat if the Explorers suffer another poor season. A win against the defending national champions would alleviate any chatter about his status.

Series history
This is the first and only time the Big 5 rivals will meet this season. Jay Wright is 13-2 all-time against the Explorers, and his group blew them out last season, 76-47.

What’s next?
La Salle will head to Miami for the Hoophall Miami Invitational to take on Georgetown this Saturday at the American Airlines Arena.

Villanova travels to Newark, New Jersey, to meet No. 23 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center.

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."