The Eagles (7-0) are on the road this week to face the Houston Texans (1-5-1) on Thursday Night Football at NRG Stadium.
Here are some key matchups to watch:
Dameon Pierce vs. Eagles run defense
The Texans have had a pretty awful season so far but the fourth-round pick out of Florida has been one of the few bright spots. In seven games this season, Dameon Pierce has 539 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 121 attempts (4.5). He also has 20 caches for 98 yards and 1 touchdown. The only rookie with more yards from scrimmage this year is Jets running back Breece Hall.
“He jumps off the tape,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
The reason this is such an important matchup is because of how hard the 5-10, 212-pound Pierce runs. He’s hard to bring down and the Eagles have had their struggles with missed tackles in 2022. Of his 539 rushing yards, Pierce has 318 after contact, which is the fourth-most in the NFL behind Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb. And his 16 broken tackles leads the league, according to ProFootballReference’s advanced stats. On average, Pierce has a broken tackle every 7.6 attempts, the best mark of any running back in the NFL.
Kenyon Green vs. Javon Hargrave
The Texans are starting rookie Keyon Green at left guard this season and he’s having some early struggles. While Green has surrendered just one sack this season, he’s given up 23 pressures, 16 hurries and 6 hits, according to ProFootballFocus. He ranks as PFF’s No. 72 rated guard out of 79 in the NFL this season. And in this game, he’ll be seeing a ton of Javon Hargrave, who is coming off his best game of the season against the Steelers. Hargrave on Sunday had 2 sacks and a key forced fumble. The Eagles should be able to get some pressure up the gut against Houston.
Davis Mills vs. Jonathan Gannon
While Davis Mills is probably slightly better than you think he is, he’s still nowhere near a top quarterback in the NFL. In seven starts this year, he’s competed 63.1% of his passes with 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He’ll also take some sacks; he’s been brought down 16 times this season. The Eagles really took it to rookie Kenny Pickett on Sunday. Mills isn’t a rookie anymore but he’s still a very young player and that means the Eagles can afford to be aggressive and try to put the game on his shoulder to see if he can handle it.
Miles Sanders vs. awful run defense
The Eagles didn’t need Miles Sanders to do much against the Steelers. They knew they could throw all over Pittsburgh and that’s exactly what they did. But after seeing one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses in Week 8, they’ll see one of the league’s worst run defenses on Thursday night. The Texans this year are dead last in rushing yards allowed with 1,302. They’ve seen the most attempts in the NFL at 234 but they’ve also given up an average of 5.6 yards per attempt. That’s the second-worst figure in the NFL behind the Chargers’ 5.7.
This Houston run defense is historically bad. Since 1987 they are one of just four teams to allow 1,300+ rushing yards through the first seven games of the season. The others: The 2008 Chiefs (1-6), the 2010 Bills (0-7) and the 2019 Bengals (0-7). Sure, when a team is bad, they’re usually down big and teams run the ball, so this is somewhat skewed. But the fact that the average is so high tells you they stink against the run all the time.
Eagles tackles vs. Jerry Hughes
The Eagles have been able to hold up against most edge rushers this season because they have one of the best pairs of offensive tackles in the NFL with Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata. They’ll both have to be ready for the 34-year-old Hughes, who lines up on both sides of the defensive line and has five sacks through seven games, already surpassing his single-season totals in each of the last three seasons. The Texans don’t have a ton of talent on that defense, but Hughes has definitely stood out this season even at his advanced age.
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