Eagles Offense vs. Texans Defense

How will the Eagles neutralize the threat of J.J. Watt? Conversely, how will Houston manage the (mostly) strong passing attack of the Birds?


The big play and the big mistake. Philadelphia has thrived on making timely plays that have bolstered their five victories, but careless mistakes and falling short on big opportunities have helped hang the two losses. The loss to the Cardinals on Sunday was the appropriate microcosm of their entire season, flashes of brilliance and error side by side.

While the Monday morning quarterbacking lays much of the blame at the feet of Cary Williams and Nate Allen, the offense had chances to cash in, particularly in the second quarter, and just didn't, creating two red zone turnovers. This needs to cut out if the Eagles are going to assert their image as one of the top teams in the NFC. Of course, everyone said this a month ago, too.

Nick Foles

It's been kind of a free-fall for Foles since the Redskins game. Up through then, 3-0 Foles had thrown six touchdowns and two picks. Since then, he's degenerated to six touchdowns and seven interceptions, with at least four or five of those picks easily blamed on him. Where's the Foles that confidently went over the top in 2013 to torch opponents? We saw a glimpse on Jeremy Maclin's long touchdown, but otherwise? Something's just missing.

KEY STAT: Of the eight quarterbacks under pressure on 100+ dropbacks, Foles has the second-worst completion percentage (38.7 percent), ahead of only Geno Smith.

LeSean McCoy

McCoy, a candidate for league MVP a season ago, hasn't scored a touchdown since September 15. That's five games without scoring, and an entire October out of the end zone. McCoy's at least finding space once more, hitting holes behind David Molk, Lane Johnson, and Jason Peters with some frequency, but he's not quite back to being the 'Shady' of renown, though he's getting there.

KEY STAT: McCoy averaged 2.74 yards a carry in his first four games, and upped the average to 4.67 YPA over his last three, heavily aided by the Giants game.

Jeremy Maclin

Where would the offense be without Jeremy Maclin? At this rate, Maclin will set a franchise mark for receiving yards in a season (1445 would pass Mike Quick's 1409 from 31 years ago), and he's caught six of Foles' 12 touchdown passes. After the inadverant Gatorade bath on Sunday, Maclin caught a 19-yard out pass in the waning seconds to at least get Philly close to taking the ultimate lead. He's a big play receiver out of DeSean Jackson's shadow, and everyone's beginning to realize it.

KEY STAT: Of Maclin's 39 catches on 74 targets, the 35 incompletions were all on Foles. Maclin is not credited with a single drop in seven games.

Matt Tobin

Not to take anything away from Todd Bowles' fearless blitz schemes, but Tobin is just ill-equipped to deal with such pressure. A mediocre run-blocker, Tobin is currently the weakest link on the offensive line, to which the only sigh of relief for Eagles fans is that he'll likely play just one more game before Evan Mathis returns from his MCL sprain. Sadly, he's liable to be beaten up on some J.J. Watt stunts to the inside.

KEY STAT: Tobin has allowed ten quarterback pressures in the last three games, including six hurries (three to the Cardinals).


On paper, the Texans defense is a mixed lot. Their 4.10 yards per run allowed is middle-ground for the league. Opponents maintain a high 93.1 passer rating against them. Those statistics don't underscore a dominant defense, but others do. Among those numbers, an extremely-low 35.24 third-down percentage, 15 sacks, and seven picks help pull the cart.

The mere presence of a certain defender, whom will get to in a moment, imbues his teammates with the knowledge that he can make virtually any play. Without him, they'd be a group in further disarray but with him, he not only powers the unit, but levels up those around him. Indeed, the NFL's defensive player is a contagious force.

J.J. Watt

For God's sake, just look at the numbers: seven sacks, 23 quarterback hits, 24 hurries, seven deflected passes, three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), a pick-six, 24 run stops, and a receiving touchdown. That last entry doesn't enhance Watt's defensive prowess, but only envinces what sort of reliably chaotic force he is. You can set your watch to Watt's disruptive influence. He's the most dominant defender of his generation.

KEY STAT: Aside from what's already written? Consider that Watt is bringing this sort of destruction while averaging 65.4 snaps a game. He's not wearing down in the slightest.

Whitney Mercilus

Mercilus is the team's most gifted run-stopper after Watt, racking up 15 stops behind the line. On the flip side, Mercilus struggles in the passing game, bringing just eight hits in eight games, as well as two sacks. This imperfection extends to pass coverage, where he can be slightly unspectacular. Even if you double up on Watt, Mercilus can't exactly be counted on to bust through and make the play in his stead.

KEY STAT: In three of eight games, Mercilus only managed to pressure the quarterback once or not at all.

Kareem Jackson

Seven Texans are tied with one interception each on the season, and cornerback Jackson's part of that bunch. Overall, Jackson is arguably the team's best in pass coverage, looking like a miniature-Watt with six deflections. Only 28 completions have gone his way, less than four a game, on 44 throws his way, which is pretty good business for a largely-unheralded defensive back.

KEY STAT: Quarterbacks maintain a rating of 91.4 throwing Jackson's way, while they boast a 103.9 rating going toward his corner-counterpart, Jonathan Joseph.

Statistics from Pro Football Focus were used to write this story.

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