The Scouting Report for Thursday night’s Texans vs. Eagles game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.
Dameon Pierce vs. Eagles’ Front Seven
- Dameon Pierce is an excellent running back for the Houston Texans, and the more I studied him, the more I appreciated his game and what he has done thus far. He is ranked 12th in the league with 539 yards rushing through seven games.
- Pierce has excellent instincts and understands how to set up his runs. He has top-level awareness to see the hole and the blocking scheme. He is a one-cut, lateral runner that can plant his foot in the ground and get up the field.
- Obviously, teams focus on stopping Pierce, but he still produces. That is the sign of a good running back. When the defense knows you are getting the football, you still churn out yards for your offense.
- Pierce will have a challenge this week as he plays the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are a better front against the pass, but they still play stout and strong when defending the run. Overall, the Eagles are fourth in the NFL in points allowed per game (17).
- They are 15th in the NFL, giving up 114.7 yards rushing per game- but that is deceptive. The Eagles are OK giving up some yards on the ground, and their No. 1 priority is rushing the passer. This unit is to get to the passer first and defend the run second.
- Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and now Robert Quinn can all defend the run, but they want to sack the quarterback most of all. So when you watch the Eagles defense- focus on how they get up the field quickly and then work to come back and work their gap against the run.
- Fletcher Cox still has gas left in the tank. He has ‘old man strength,’ but he does not play old. Cox can get his hands on offensive linemen and control them at the point of attack. Be on the lookout for how Cox can still control offensive linemen with his hands even when he gets out of balance.
- Linebacker T.J. Edwards has quick, clean eyes to recognize the run and can quickly get in the mix. He will try to slip and slink around offensive linemen and has the movement skills and body control to do so.
- If the runner does break through to the second level, the Eagles have the team speed to converge on the football and make plays down the field.
- Overall, I see Pierce getting yards. This defense will not totally shut him down, but they will limit his explosive plays, rush the passer and keep the points against to a minimum.
- Expect to see Derek Stingley Jr. matched up with AJ Brown for most of this game. Stingley is a guy the Texans use against their opponent’s No. 1 receiver, wherever that player may line up on the outside.
- Stingley was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft despite missing most of the 2021 season at LSU. Stingley is a bigger-bodied corner with good length. He has excellent athleticism with solid speed and quickness. Plus, he has a remarkable ability to flip his hips and break on routes. He has primarily played zone for the Texans but is a better man-to-man player. He is best when he can use the sideline as an extra defender and pinch his receiver. He does an excellent job in press when he gets hands-on and jams his opponent off the line. He has struggled with his reaction time when playing off coverage, and he has had trouble seeing routes develop in front of him, so he allows a lot of balls to be completed on in-breaking routes over the middle. He can get flat-footed and struggles to make ground, but he does a good job of reacting and adjusting to the ball when it is in the air. He can recover and knock down the ball or take it away. He is a good athlete, and the talent is there, but he is still young and needs to learn to digest and react to what is going on in front of him at a quicker pace.
- AJ Brown is having a productive season for the Eagles. He ranks sixth in yards receiving (659), tied for fourth in touchdowns receiving (5 )and fifth in yards per reception (16.9). Brown is a big-bodied, physical outside receiver who plays with good strength and toughness, showing the ability to make plays in traffic. He does a great job of using his body to shield away defenders. He has a good ability to high-point the ball on high throws. He has a bit of a longer stride but still shows good speed off the line. He has the ability to sink his hips and sit on routes or cut when he needs to. He doesn’t run the crispest routes but is still an effective enough route runner. He will have some concentration drops but, for the most part, has solid hands. He is a reliable outside receiver who must be given attention at all times.
- This will be a tough matchup for the Texans and Stingley, especially if they continue to show off-coverage zone looks. Giving Brown a free release will not be effective. Stingley needs to play tight and get physical with Brown. I see Brown having the advantage in this matchup. He has the experience and will be able to out-muscle Stingley for contested catches.
Texans’ DL vs. Eagles’ OL
- The Texans have not allowed under 350 yards in any game, and they have allowed 400 or more yards in four games. The one area they have been good in is the red zone and goal-to-go situations, where they rank sixth and second, respectively.
- The Texans are 32nd against the run allowing 186 yards per game, and 31st in yards per rush at 5.56 yards. In addition, they have allowed nine runs of 20+ yards which ranks 30th.
- Houston blitzes only 17% of the dropbacks, which is tied for the seventh-fewest in the league. They are 20th in sacks (15) and 28th in pressures (79).
- They rotate a lot of bodies up front, with 10 players logging more than 20% of the total defensive snaps.
- Jerry Hughes leads the team with five sacks, and Rasheem Green is second with 3.5. At 34, Hughes is still their most talented rusher. He still has good flexibility and bend on the edge. With that being said, the Eagles’ tackles should be able to block him one on one. Green has good length to keep blockers off his chest, and he plays with a good motor, but he plays high and lacks bend and explosion. He gets his production with effort and experience. He will kick inside, too, where he can effectively use his length and hand. He is strong at the point of attack, shocking and shedding tight ends.
- Additionally, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has some pass-rush traits with speed upfield, good lateral quickness and a fluid spin. However, he lacks girth and strength, which shows up working through contact on his rush and in the run game, where he gets bounced around or stuck on blocks if he doesn’t win with quickness. 35-year-old Mario Addison just returned from injury, and while he lacks bend and explosion at this point, you can see that he has a plan and a full toolbox of rushes. You can’t sleep on him.
- The Texans lack length, quickness and athleticism in the interior. They make very few tackles nor do they get in the backfield very often. Maliek Collins has the most natural ability and prototype size profile, but he was inactive last week with a chest injury. In his seven seasons with the Cowboys, Raiders and Texans, he has not been able to elevate past rotational contributor. Rookie Thomas Booker has a thick lower body and some plus traits but doesn’t look as though he has upside beyond a rotational player. The rest of the group could be characterized as undersized, try-hard types.
- The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in football, and it’s always good when you can keep them healthy. LT Jordan Mailata missed two games, Landon Dickerson missed parts of two, and Lane Johnson missed part of one game. Only the Vikings have started fewer unique lineup combinations (2) on offense.
- Not only have they had continuity this year, but this is a home-grown group, who were all drafted by the Eagles with 2021 2nd rounder Landon Dickerson, the most recent addition. The offensive line is much more than individual talent, and they have to work more as a unit than any other group on the field.
- Let’s not overlook their individual abilities, though. RT Lane Johnson is an athletic freak with rare agility and first-step quickness for a man his size. He has given up the sixth fewest pressures this season (3) among all OL. At age 35, Jason Kelce can still get to second-level blocks that few centers in the league can get to. He has allowed just one sack in his last 1,100+ pass-blocking snaps. Mailata doesn’t have the quickest feet or polished pass sets, but he is patient and so massive that it’s like traveling around the Statue of Liberty to get to Hurts around him. He can bury defenders when he comes off the ball. Dickerson is a large man at RG, and he plays with good technique, awareness and temperament. LG Isaac Seumalo is a good athlete who plays with a good base and pad level but can sometimes get overpowered. Though Johnson was the only can’t-miss-prospect of the group, they are all professionals now, and there is just no weak link.
- The Eagles lead the league with a +14 in net turnovers, which is +8 more than any other team in the league.
- The Eagles have yet to lose a fumble and have just two turnovers this year, four fewer than any other team in the league.
- Brandin Cooks was a name floated at the trade deadline but was not moved. Seeing how he reacts in his first game post-deadline will be interesting.
Eagles’ Keys to Victory
- Play their game regardless of the record of their opponent.
- Continue to dominate the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Texans’ Keys to Victory
- Make the Eagles earn their points by minimizing their chunk plays.
- Protect the football and control the game with Pierce.
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