Eagles

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Texans

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Texans

The Eagles (7-7) gave themselves new life last week by beating the Rams in L.A. and now they’ll face another tough test when the Texans (10-4) pay a visit Sunday to Lincoln Financial Field. 

If the Eagles want to sneak into the playoffs, they need to keep winning and hope some other things fall their way. But if they don’t win, it doesn’t matter. 

Here are five matchups to watch Sunday: 

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Rasul Douglas/Avonte Maddox

If Nuk Hopkins isn’t the best receiver in the NFL, he’s damn close. In 14 games, he has 94 catches for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns. It’s his second straight 90-catch, 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown season. That’s pretty impressive. The most incredible thing about him is his ability to make spectacular catches. It’s not a 50-50 ball with him. He’s much more likely to come down with the ball with some of the best hands in the NFL. 

The good news for the Eagles is that their secondary situation seems somewhat settled with Douglas and Maddox outside and Cre’Von LeBlanc in the nickel spot. It’ll be up to Douglas and Maddox to handle Hopkins. It’s interesting because Douglas is a particularly long corner, while Maddox is just 5-9. Hopkins will be a tough test for both.

Texans’ OL vs. Eagles’ defensive line 

Fletcher Cox had one sack last week and it was the only sack of the game. But sacks don’t tell the full story and the Eagles’ defensive line routinely got to Jared Goff and really changed that game. They’ll have a chance to do it again this weekend. 

The weak spot of this Texans team is its offensive line. They have given up a league-high 52 sacks this season. For perspective, the Eagles have given up just 36 and are around the middle in the NFL. This might be a chance for Cox, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham to really get after it. 

Deshaun Watson vs. Eagles’ linebackers 

The Texans’ quarterback is coming off an ACL tear last season, but he hasn’t been afraid to get back to running with the football this year and the Eagles have been burned by quarterbacks running the ball this season. Watson has 78 rushing attempts for 436 yards (5.6 per attempt) and two touchdowns this season. The Eagles have to be aware of where he is at all times and know he could take off. 

Remember what other QBs have been able to do against the Eagles on the ground this season: 

Cam Newton: 7 carries, 49 yards 
Marcus Mariota: 10 carries, 46 yards, touchdown
Blake Bortles: 8 carries, 43 yards
Andrew Luck: 1 carry, 33 yards 

Eagles’ OL vs. J.J. Watt/Jadeveon Clowney

One of the big reasons the Eagles are back in the playoff hunt is because the offensive line that has been struggling with injuries all season is finally healthy and playing to its potential. The Eagles will need another big game against the Texans’ dominant pass rush. These are strengths for both teams. 

Watt has 14 1/2 sacks and Clowney has 8 this season. They can flat-out get after the quarterback. And then the Texans also have Whitney Mercilus, who is a skilled pass rusher in his own right when he’s in the right position. The toughest part about Watt and Clowney is they move these guys all over the formation. Watt will be completely wide or over center at times. 

Nick Foles vs. Tyrann Mathieu 

Foles had a pretty good game last week against the Rams, but he needs to be careful throwing the ball in this secondary with Mathieu and fellow safety Justin Reid. Mathieu has just two picks this year, but he’s such a dangerous player back there and has really given that Texans secondary a boost. 

Foles isn’t afraid to throw up the ball and let his receivers make plays, but that can be a dangerous risk against a guy like Mathieu.

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. We already looked at cornerback, running back and linebacker.            

Up today: Defensive end 

Names to know 

Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall, Joe Ostman 

What to watch 

While the Eagles have much more depth at defensive tackle heading into the 2019 season, there’s some reason to worry about their depth at defensive end. Last year, they began the season with the same starters but had Michael Bennett and Chris Long as rotational players. This year, they’re not that deep. 

The starters are the same this season: Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. Even though he’s over 30 now, we all know what kind of player Graham has been and will be in 2019. He was hobbled by a lingering ankle injury early last season but was back to himself later. Barnett got off to a quick start in 2018, but then hurt his shoulder and eventually needed surgery. He wasn’t a full participant in OTAs this spring, but should be ready for the start of the season. Those two are set and should be pretty good. 

After the starters? That’s where some questions start to form. Curry is back on a much cheaper deal than the one he made it through just one year of in Tampa Bay. Curry is a solid player but he’s 31 now and since he had 9 sacks in 2014, he hasn’t gone over 3 1/2 in the four years since. In an injury-shortened season in Tampa Bay, he had 2 1/2 sacks in 2018. And now, he’s the Eagles’ top rotational end. 

But at least Curry has proven to be an adequate player in the NFL. Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman haven’t proven much in their short careers. Sweat certainly looks the part and will get a chance to be a part of the rotation, but last year’s fourth-rounder played just 68 snaps last season. Miller was the last pick of the fourth round this year, so it would be unfair to have immediately high expectations of him. Hall was a third-round pick in 2017, but didn’t last in Carolina and has struggled to find a home in the NFL. Ostman is a hard-worker whom the Eagles love, but is he really the answer? 

Perhaps the Eagles bring in a veteran — Connor Barwin would like to come back — to fill out the rotation, but if they don’t, we’ll need to watch Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman closely this summer. One or two of them will likely make the roster and then fight for playing time. Because Malik Jackson will probably stay on the field for third downs, the depth at defensive end isn’t as important, but the Eagles are one injury away from one of those guys playing a significant role in 2019. 

Prediction 

Graham and Barnett start and Curry is the first guy off the bench. Sweat will be the team’s fourth option, but will have to earn playing time. I don’t think Miller is ready to be a significant contributor as a rookie. Keep an eye on Hall, who is a dark horse candidate to make the team.

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Eagle Eye podcast: Wentz out of the shadow; Peters back to dominating?

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Eagle Eye podcast: Wentz out of the shadow; Peters back to dominating?

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro are getting ready for training camp. 

The guys break down a few things Doug Pederson said before the team broke for summer, take a look at position battles and list former Eagles who squandered their talent. 

Also, wishing Chris Maragos the best as he retires. 

2:00 - Getting ready for training camp 
8:00 - Doug Pederson on Carson Wentz 
12:00 - Can Jason Peters be dominant again? 
19:00 - Position battle: CB 
24:00 - Position battle: RB
28:00 - Position battle: LB
32:00 - Position battle: DE
35:00 - Position battle: WR
40:00 - Eagles who squandered talent 
51:00 - Chris Maragos retires 

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More on the Eagles