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Eagles 2018 Opponent Preview: Houston Texans

Previewing the Eagles’ schedule.

NFL: Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Bleeding Green Nation’s game-by-game preview of the Eagles’ 2018 schedule concludes today with Philadelphia’s Week 16 opponent: the Houston Texans. (Week 15 preview is here.)

The Texans have the potential to make a big leap this year.

Deshaun Watson flashed great franchise quarterback potential before suffering a very unfortunate ACL injury during an early November practice in 2017. The 22-year-old figures to be healthy, but can he sustain success over a larger sample size?

On the other side of the ball, the Texans obviously have one of the best players in the league in J.J. Watt. He’s only played eight games in the last two years, though.

The Texans will almost certainly be better than their 4-12 from last season. The only question is to what extent will they improve.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the Texans from our SB Nation colleagues over at Battle Red Blog.

Notable free agent additions:

S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Aaron Colvin, OG Zach Fulton, OG Senio Kelemete

Over / under: 8.5 wins

OVER: The Texans were the most fearsome offense in the league when Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and D’Onta Foreman were all healthy, and as all three of those young pieces went down so too did the versatility and dynamism of the whole unit. DeAndre Hopkins can’t do it all by himself, and now that the rest of the offense is back and ready to rock, the Texans should be among the highest scoring teams in the NFL.

Throw in a pass rush that is also returning to training camp healthy with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus back in action, as well as a secondary with a big infusion of free agent talent, and you have a recipe for a roster that is incredibly dangerous on both sides of the ball. It is not out of the question to pick Houston as a dark horse Super Bowl contender, let alone a contender for the AFC South crown.

Rookie I’m most excited about:

Martinas Rankin: Though Rankin has spent much of his rookie offseason recovering from injury, the Texans are very high on their rookie third round pick as their potential left tackle of the future. Rankin acquitted himself very well in the SEC against some of the best pass rushers college football had to offer, and despite not being the most gifted athlete in the world, he has the toughness and technique to be a very solid starter in the NFL. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a very key contributor for this team going forward.

Best position battle heading into camp:

Running Back: The only reason why D’Onta Foreman did not run away with the starting job late in the season last year was because of an unfortunate achilles injury that cut his rookie campaign short. This year he is ready to come back strong and prove that his injury won’t slow him down, which should get the competitive juices flowing in Lamar Miller to once again fight for his job. Both backs are very tough runners that don’t mind doing the dirty work between the tackles, and both have the speed to do damage on the edges as well, so I’m really excited to see who ends up taking the lead back role by the end of August.

Biggest storyline heading into camp:

Is everyone healthy? It’s no secret that Houston’s Super Bowl chances rest in the hands of their injured stars. Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney are all some of the best (or in Watson’s case some of the most exciting) players in the NFL, but all of them spent time this summer on the trainer’s table coming back from various injuries. If those four - along with Will Fuller and D’Onta Foreman - can come back and stay on the field for the full season, Houston has a shot at making a very deep playoff run. If they suffer setbacks - or worse, get injured again - then you can expect the Texans to once again be picking in the top ten in the draft.

Houston has terrible, terrible depth at most positions on the roster, but man...when all of the starters are together on the field, this is one scary team. Hopefully they can all avoid injury for once so we can see what this fully armed and operational battlestation can do.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp:

Jadeveon Clowney’s Contract: Everyone in the NFL is waiting to see who breaks first - Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, or Jadeveon Clowney. The three defensive crown jewels of the 2014 draft class are all due to get big pay days either this offseason or next, but none of them want to be the first one to set the market. If Donald or Mack sign first, then Clowney’s price tag will see a huge jump alongside both of those other values, which could be a sticky point of contention if the Texans front office is still concerned about his long term durability. This plot point is still in its “wait and see” phase, but don’t be shocked if it takes a few more twists and turns before the regular season starts.

Notable injuries heading into training camp:

All of them? Most of Houston’s biggest stars (or up and coming stars) were hurt last season, and unfortunately due to the Texans’ lack of overall depth, every single one of those injuries is massively important. Obviously Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt are the biggest names to keep track of, but honestly this roster cannot afford any more major season-derailing injuries if they want any hope of finishing above .500. There just isn’t enough depth here to weather that kind of storm again. Either Houston stays healthy and challenges for a Lombardi trophy, or they don’t and they contend for a top five draft pick. There really isn’t any in between with this organization right now.


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