Thursday, December 2, 2010
Five things to watch: Texans at Eagles
By Matt Mosley
This should be a pretty intriguing matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) and the Houston Texans (5-6) tonight. The Eagles can take sole possession of first place in the NFC East (for a couple days), and the Texans have an opportunity to stay in the playoff conversation because no one from their division is separating from the pack.
Here are five things to watch from the Eagles:
1. Do the Eagles have anyone who can cover the Texans' brawling wide receiver, Andre Johnson? We don't know if Asante Samuel will be able to play with a knee sprain, but even if he does, he won't be at full strength. And we saw Dimitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson struggle in coverage against the Bears' receivers. Johnson will have a huge size advantage, so Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott will likely have to shade a safety to his side throughout the game. The good news for the Eagles is that Texans wide receiver Kevin Walter is coming off a one-catch game. He's a much easier matchup for this secondary.
2. Stewart Bradley must bounce back after a poor effort against the Bears. The Texans have a running back named Arian Foster who can wear down a defense. Bradley's coming off a game in which he couldn't bring Matt Forte to the ground. Foster's much more powerful than Forte and he also has breakaway speed. He's been perfect this season on third-and-1 conversions and he can also hurt you in the passing game. The Eagles have to play a more fundamentally sound football game. And that's not going to be easy on the short week. Too many players last week were diving at ball carriers instead of making sure they took them to the ground.
3. It's about time for DeSean Jackson to have a breakout game. The Texans have an awful secondary. Cornerback Kareem Jackson will be a good player down the road, but he's susceptible to the double move at this point in his career. Bernard Pollard's a big hitter, but the Texans don't have anyone who can match DeSean Jackson's speed. If Jackson can remain patient early in the game, he'll have a chance to make a huge play against this defense. If he has six catches for 150 yards and a couple touchdowns, no one will mind him texting Drew Rosenhaus after the game.
4. Winston Justice must have his best game of the season at right tackle. Texans defensive end Mario Williams has 8.5 sacks this season and he can be one of the most dominating defenders in the league. The Eagles need to help Justice at times, but he has to make sure to get the proper depth on passing plays. The Texans will play some games at the line of scrimmage to confuse the Eagles. Justice and right guard Nick Cole need to be on the same page more than ever against the Texans. When one of those stunts occurs, they need to stay at the same depth or Williams will find a direct path to Michael Vick and make him pay.
5. Vick needs to work through his progressions quickly. Vick took too many shots from the Bears last Sunday because he was gazing downfield. He needs to use his checkdown options more against the Texans. Vick's efficiency has been impressive this season, but he needs to be more decisive in the pocket. He also needs to do a better job protecting the ball. He was charged with four fumbles in Sunday's game, although the Eagles didn't lose any of them. Williams does a nice job of stripping the ball, so Vick needs to be aware of that at all times. And with the Texans dropping so many players into coverage, Vick shouldn't hesitate when it comes to running the ball.