With the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans scheduled to face off on Sunday, I reached out to our friends/enemies over at Battle Red Blog. The great Brett Kollmann kindly took the time to answer my questions.
Let's take a look at the answers.
1) Everyone knows that the Eagles have a lot of former Houston Texans player on the roster. Let's name them: Bryan Braman, Connor Barwin, James Casey, Andrew Gardner, Donnie Jones, Jeff Maehl, DeMeco Ryans. So that's 7. Can you rank those players in order of how much the Texans miss them and give some thoughts on your explanation?
Honestly, we miss Bryan Braman the most solely for his contributions on special teams. He's a beast on all four ST units, and I am not exaggerating when I say he was one of the most important players on the entire club during his time in Houston. Even while the rest of Joe Marciano's ganged sucked on coverage units, Braman consistently made plays all by himself to give this team momentum at critical spots.
After Braman, however, we really don't "miss" anyone else. Was Connor Barwin an awesome guy to have around town? Absolutely, but he still only had one really good year on the Texans and hasn't had the same production since. He was the king of "almost getting there" for years around these parts. Demeco Ryans was the heart and sole of this defense for a long time, and to be honest we could probably use him right now with Brian Cushing looking like a shell of himself after two consecutive knee injuries, but we all know that Mychal Kendricks is the best inside linebacker in Philadelphia these days. Ryans probably can't give the Texans anything right now that they are not already getting from Mike Mohamed. The rest of those names were backups or role players that have since been replaced or upgraded.
So I guess the short answer is no, outside of "Top Braman" we don't miss any of those guys.
2) I'm really not sure what to make of the Texans. They're 4-4 but only 1-3 in their last four games and their best win has come over the Bills, and Buffalo quarterback E.J. Manuel was benched following that game. J.J. Watt is awesome and terrifying but Ryan Fitzpatrick is not so much. What's your take on the state of Houston's football team?
This team goes as far as Arian Foster takes them every week, and that's about it. The defense is stacked with talent that can limit even the best offenses (when they are all healthy, that is), but the Texans' own offense is so damn erratic that it is impossible to ever confidently predict a win with this team. At one point this season the Texans only had a 12% chance of converting a first down if they sustained a penalty during a drive.
That speaks volumes about Fitzpatrick's ability to deliver the ball down field and dig this team out of the holes they create for themselves. If the offensive line blows a block on first down and Fitzpatrick is staring at 2nd and 13, you might as well trot the punt return team on the field right then and there. If Houston does not remain on schedule with the run game, they fail. Period. Now, stopping that run game is easier said than done with how well Foster is playing this season, but it is possible. Were it not for a herculean effort from J.J. Watt against the Bills, Buffalo's containment of the Texans ground game would have been a textbook example of how to send Houston home with a loss.
Stop Foster, and you win. It's as simple as that. If the rest of the NFL figures that out any time soon, the Texans could be in for a long second half of the season.
3) As you can imagine, a number of Eagles fans are also Penn State football fans. What's the reception for new Texans head coach Bill O'Brien been like?
We love Bill O'Brien. He's a breathe of fresh air for a fan base that was fed up with Gary Kubiak's placid monotony. O'Brien is creative, he's ballsy, and he is not afraid to do what it takes to win the game. Sure, he has made a few horrible decisions that very well could have caused a couple losses (like not running on third and short in over time against Dallas with a dominant Arian Foster), but he is willing to admit those mistakes and learn from them rather than repeat them hoping for a different result. That atmosphere of accountability is evident all throughout the team. If you make a mistake, you are held accountable. If you do not put the team first, you are held accountable. If you do anything but put forth your best effort for this club, you are damn sure held accountable. No more blind loyalty to ineffective veterans (I'm looking at you, Gary), and no more unwillingness to adapt to a changing NFL landscape.
We love him, and we hope he stays for a long, long time.
4) Name a Texans player that the Eagles need to watch out for.
On offense definitely watch out for DeAndre Hopkins. If he had anything remotely resembling competent quarterback play, this kid would turn into an instant Pro Bowler. I don't think the Texans have seen a young receiver this talented since Andre Johnson a decade ago. If Hopkins ended up having a career just as good as Andre's, I would not even be a little bit shocked. I truly mean that.
5) Let's hear a score prediction. Who wins this game and why?
That is tough to say. On one hand, Nick Foles and Ryan Fitzpatrick have both been turnover machines this season. On the other hand, both the Eagles and Texans defenses have forced a load of turnovers in their own right. Would it shock me to see both teams cough it up three times and still come out with a dead even ratio? Not at all. I suppose what it really comes down to is who turns it over last. I will give the edge to Houston simply because of the home field advantage. If this game were in Philly, the story would be quite different.
Texans win on a last second field goal 24-23.