Eagles Wake-Up Call: Getting To Know the Texans
Here are five things to know about the Eagles’ Week 9 opponent, the Houston Texans.
1. The conversation this week will focus on J.J. Watt, the best defensive player in the game. The 6-5, 289-pounder wrecks games on a weekly basis. He has seven of the Texans’ 15 sacks, seven batted passes, an interception, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
Game-planning for Watt will be a team effort. Here’s what we know about the Eagles’ offensive line: Jason Peters will start at left tackle; Matt Tobin will start at left guard; and Lane Johnson will start at right tackle. Watt against Tobin would be a mismatch of monumental proportions.
The Eagles could get Jason Kelce back, but that’s no lock. Chip Kelly has made it clear that they won’t rush the starting center in his recovery from sports hernia surgery. Todd Herremans, meanwhile, suffered an injury down the stretch against the Cardinals. We’ll find out a little more today about his status. If Herremans can’t go, Dennis Kelly would likely replace him. If David Molk plays in place of Kelce, Watt could be matched up against three backup interior linemen.
2. Overall, the Texans have a mediocre defense. They ranked 15th overall, according to Football Outsiders, going into Week 8 – 15th against the run and 21st against the pass. The Texans are allowing 5.7 yards per play (21st), but are eighth in scoring defense (20.8 PPG).
No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney returned to action in a limited capacity last week against Tennessee and will line up at outside linebacker.
The Texans have allowed 10 pass plays of 40+ yards, tied for the most in the NFL. But Houston has produced 17 takeaways, tied for second-most.
3. Offensively, Bill O’Brien is getting all he can out of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s completing 63.4 percent of his passes and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt. But Fitzpatrick has an interception rate of 3.1 percent, sixth-worst among QBs who have attempted at least 100 passes.
Fitzpatrick will chuck it to a pair of capable receivers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. The pair has combined for 82 catches, 1,120 yards and 19 grabs of 20+ yards.
4. The Texans run the ball at a higher rate than any other team in the NFL (51 percent of the time). The Eagles have been stout up front, but their run defense will be tested against Houston.
Arian Foster has been fantastic with 766 yards, second to only DeMarco Murray. Foster is averaging 5.2 YPC and is second in the NFL with seven runs of 20+ yards.
5. The Eagles’ roster is loaded with ex-Texans, and that will be a storyline all week long. Houston traded DeMeco Ryans to the Birds, and he’s been the leader of the defense for three straight seasons. Ryans spent six years with the Texans and made two Pro Bowls, but Houston didn’t want to pay him for being a two-down player there.
Meanwhile, the Texans let Connor Barwin walk as a free agent after the 2012 season. He spent four seasons in Houston and had an 11.5-sack season. Along with Malcolm Jenkins, Ryans and Barwin are the leaders of the Eagles’ defense. And both came from Houston.
Other former Texans on the Eagles’ roster include: Donnie Jones, Bryan Braman, Andrew Gardner, James Casey and Jeff Maehl.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Zone Read: Eagles-Cardinals, the Day After. We examine what went wrong on the last two offensive drives. Plus, game balls, five thoughts, the number that matters and more.
Kelly on the trade deadline and more.
What they’re saying about the Eagles this week.
Turnovers are proving costly for the Birds, writes T-Mac.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers some day-after thoughts:
There was not one moment that lost that game. There isn’t one person to blame. The Eagles were flawed all day and simply had too many What If moments against a good team. You can do that against the Rams or Skins and get away with it. Not against the Cardinals, especially on the road.
I went back and re-watched the goal line sequence. After review, I’m not sure Chip Kelly would have won a challenge. I think it was a terrible spot, but you need visual proof. Unfortunately, there is a Cardinal defender that blocks you from seeing when/where Chris Polk’s legs hit the ground. You can guess based on the way he’s moving that he’s still off the ground, but I didn’t see definitive visual proof. That took some of the sting out of not challenging. But again…what an awful spot. I don’t know how the on-field officials were so off.
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News offers his Eagles-Cardinals report card:
The Eagles had 88 offensive plays, but just 26 of them were runs. That’s a season-low 29.5 rushing percentage. LeSean McCoy finished with a respectable 83 yards on 21 carries against the league’s No. 1-rated run defense. He had seven carries of 7 yards or more.
Nick Foles’ 75.4 passer rating was his second-lowest of the season. He threw a ridiculous 62 passes and completed just 58 percent. He had two costly interceptions, including one in the end zone on first down, and another in the fourth quarter when he missed an open Riley Cooper badly. Jeremy Maclin had 12 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and tight end Zach Ertz had four third-down receptions for first downs.
We’ll talk to Billy Davis and Pat Shurmur and have updates from practice.