Friday, August 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Eagles-Texans scouting report

Recent history: The Eagles won in Houston on Sept. 10, 2006, 24-10, and lead the series, 2-0.

OFFENSE

Eagles: 399 yards per game (2nd)

Texans: 368 yards per game (7th)

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  • Quarterback

    Eagles: Even though he's completed almost 65 percent of his attempts the last two games, Michael Vick has failed to capitalize on some big-play chances. The Giants and Bears contained him as a runner with a disciplined pass rush and zone coverage behind it. Vick has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry the last 2 weeks.

    Texans: Matt Schaub is a pocket passer who has a good grasp of the system. He is most effective when the Texans' rushing attack provides teeth to his play-action game. Schaub is least effective when he is forced out of the pocket and has to make plays on the move. He has thrown just seven interceptions in 367 attempts this season.

    Pick: Texans

    Running back

    Eagles: LeSean McCoy is a fast, versatile back who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and leads all NFL running backs in receptions with 59, including eight vs. the Bears. He also has quickly developed into a dependable blocker as he showed in the fourth quarter Sunday, when he stoned Brian Urlacher on a blitz up the middle.

    Texans: Arian Foster is a 6-2, 227-pound load who leads the league in rushing and yards from scrimmage. He is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 9.4 yards per reception, and plays his best in the second half when weary defenses are most susceptible to missed tackles. He is 8-for-8 on third-and-1 rushing attempts.

    Pick: Texans

    Receiving

    Eagles: DeSean Jackson has just seven catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns in the last two games. He had two costly red-zone drops vs. Chicago, including one in the end zone on a slant with a safety charging toward him. Jason Avant has equaled his career high for receptions (41) and has 14 first downs in his last 15 catches.

    Texans: Andre Johnson is one of the league's top wideouts. He can stretch a secondary with his speed and also hurt you underneath with his size and physicality. His numbers are down because of a seasonlong ankle injury, but he's still lethal. TE Owen Daniels has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.

    Pick: Eagles

    Offensive line

    Eagles: The Eagles have converted just 2 of 10 red-zone opportunities the last two games, and this unit is a big reason why. Even against the Bears' four-man rush, it had numerous protection breakdowns inside the 20. Twice, the Bears got penetration up the middle and deflected passes in the red zone.

    Texans: RT Eric Winston has started 66 straight games. Their run game has been most effective when they've run to his side. LT Duane Brown, a 2008 first-round pick, has started every game since he was drafted. He's done a good job, but needs to be more effective against quicker rushers like Trent Cole.

    Pick: Texans

    DEFENSE

    Eagles: 317 yards per game (10th)

    Texans: 386 yards per game (28th)

    Defensive line

    Eagles: DE Juqua Parker's hip-flexor injury has put a dent in the front-four depth. Sean McDermott likes to rotate eight players up front, but with Parker inactive Sunday, rookie Brandon Graham had to take most of the 53 defensive snaps, which can be a challenge for a first-year player this late in the season.

    Texans: LE Mario Williams has 48 sacks in five seasons, including 8 1/2 this year. But he's not getting near enough help from the rest of the line. Texans have just 18 total sacks. Ex-Cardinal Antonio Smith, who has three sacks at RE, has taken a little of the pressure off Williams.

    Pick: Eagles

    Linebacker

    Eagles: This unit will get a serious test. The Texans will utilize RB Arian Foster both as a runner and a receiver. The Eagles had been doing a good job not giving up big plays in the run game, but were gashed by the Bears' Matt Forte for 61- and 28-yard gains. Stewart Bradley continues to be up and down.

    Texans: The loss of Pro Bowl MLB DeMeco Ryans to a season-ending injury in Week 6 was a major blow to this unit. The Texans tried moving 2009 rookie of the year Brian Cushing to the MIKE from the SAM, but moved him back outside a couple of weeks ago. He's much more effective there.

    Pick: Eagles

    Secondary

    Eagles: The Eagles could be without Pro Bowl CB Asante Samuel (knee sprain) for the second straight game, which will leave them at a major disadvantage against Andre Johnson and the Texans' dangerous passing game. The 6-3 Johnson is a tall order for 5-9 Joselio Hanson and/or rookie Trevard Lindley.

    Texans: This is the weak link in the Texans' defense. They've already given up 25 touchdown passes and have a 102.8 opponent passer rating. Rookie CB Kareem Jackson has a bright future, but has been taking his lumps. The best part of the secondary is big-hitting SS Bernard Pollard, who will be zeroing in on DeSean Jackson.

    Pick: Eagles

    Special teams

    Eagles: After several weeks of dependable play, the Eagles' kickoff-coverage unit had a meltdown Sunday, giving up three returns of 40-plus yards. The Eagles' red-zone failures have meant a lot of work for David Akers, and he's made the most of it, converting 18 of his last 19 field-goal attempts.

    Texans: No Devin Hester in sight this week. KR Steve Slaton is averaging just 19.6 yards per return. PR Jacoby Jones is averaging just 7.7. Texans' coverage units both are middle of the pack. PK Neil Rackers has a strong, dependable leg. He's got just two misses in 19 FG attempts and has nailed 11 in a row.

    Pick: Eagles

    KEY MATCHUPS

    1. Eagles RT Winston Justice vs. Texans LDE Mario Williams: Williams will be the best pass-rusher Justice has faced since the Colts' Robert Mathis in Week 9, and he needed all the help he could get with Mathis. Advantage: Texans

    2. Eagles CBs Asante Samue/Joselio Hanson and Dimitri Patterson vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson: Johnson is one of the game's best wideouts, though he's been hampered much of the year by an ankle injury. Samuel is a ballhawk with a league-best seven interceptions, but missed last week's game with an MCL knee sprain. Even if he plays, he will be nowhere close to 100 percent. Advantage: Texans

    3. Eagles MLB Stewart Bradley vs. Texans RB Arian Foster: Foster is a big, hard-to-bring-down back who leads the league in rushing and yards from scrimmage. Bradley needs to do a better job of tackling than he did vs. Matt Forte. Advantage: Texans

    HOT AND NOT

    HOT

    Eagles: WR Jason Avant. Has equaled career-high for receptions (41) and has converted 14 of his last 15 catches into first downs.

    Texans: RB Arian Foster. Had 218 yards from scrimmage in the Texans' win over Tennessee, including 143 rushing yards.

    NOT

    Eagles: WR DeSean Jackson. Had just two catches vs. Bears, dropped two passes in the red zone and got chewed out by his coach after the game.

    Texans: WR Kevin Walter. Had just one reception for 12 yards vs. Tennessee.

    DOMOWITCH'S PREDICTION: Eagles 34, Texans 27

     

    by Paul Domowitch
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