Ski masks and celebrations, two words I really didn’t think I would associate with the Eagles secondary in its current state. Without a single starting corner on the field, this unit has performed incredibly well in recent weeks. The versatility of Avonte Maddox, the tackling of Rasul Douglas and the crowning of Captain Cre’Von have all been factors in this fairytale rise from the ashes, but now, they face their toughest task yet.
The Eagles secondary may have found a winning formula against the Rams, with some strong tackles and aggressive coverage which allowed the pass-rush to do its thing and force an inconsistent Jared Goff out of his comfort zone, but the Texans offense poses a very different threat. Sure, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds are dangerous to a secondary as vulnerable as Philadelphia’s, but one of the league’s finest receivers now stands in their way.
DeAndre Hopkins already has 1,321 receiving yards on the season along with 11 touchdowns. There is every chance that he records a career year statistically and even if he doesn’t, this may be the one that fans remember most vividly. The ridiculous catches just keep mounting up as he demolishes defenses for fun. It’s not something that Jim Schwartz is taking lightly, either.
“It’s like when I used to have Calvin Johnson, what do you tell the guy, get taller? Hey, jump higher.” Schwartz jokingly told reporters earlier this week.
Sometimes, you have to work scheme to try to take the quarterback off his looks, but [Texans QB Deshaun] Watson knows who his playmakers are and they have had some injuries at the wide receiver position, also. They are going to work hard to get him the ball, and we are going to have to work hard to keep him from going there and when they do go to him, sometimes you are going to have to make the tackle. Sometimes you might be able break it up. You have to pick and choose your spots a little bit.”
It will be interesting to see how the Eagles prepare for the arrival of Hopkins. Rasul Douglas would appear to be the likeliest candidate to suit up against the elite wideout, since his 6’2, 209 lbs frame and long wingspan give him a fighting chance at swatting those deep bombs out of the air. With his recent improvements in tackling that have seen his production spike through the roof, Schwartz may find his best chance of success in the West Virginia product.
The Eagles won’t need Douglas to be picking balls out of the air throughout the night (although it would be preferred), but if he can be disciplined against one of the nastiest route-runners in the game, then he can buy enough time for the pass-rush to feast on an offensive line who have allowed a league high 52 sacks and (#2 ranked) 107 QB hits. The porous front is now facing an Eagles defensive front that was able to rip through a highly productive Rams unit and strip away the run, with Jared Goff throwing the ball a total of 54 times last Sunday. If the front-seven can replicate that success and marginalize the offense, that’s been stricken by injury at WR, the Eagles corners will at least have a chance.
Lamar Miller has been a key fixture for Deshaun Watson and already has over 900 rushing yards on the season. If the Birds can eliminate him from the matchup as they did so one week ago with Todd Gurley, then this will be another very, very winnable matchup.
Demaryius Thomas is a scary name with a scary frame at 6’3, 299 lbs, but he’s yet to record a 60 yard game for the Texans and since his arrival, he hasn’t found the end zone outside of a 2-TD game against Tennessee. Of course, there’s former Eagles hero DeAndre Carter, who’s coming off of a career game against the Jets, but Cre’Von LeBlanc’s recent improvements should, like the other corners, give him a fighting chance at cutting off traffic over the middle.
The Eagles are likely going to concede a lot of deep shots from an aggressive quarterback who isn’t afraid to extend plays. However, if the corners can be disciplined in off-coverage and let the play unfold before making their decision to break on the route or pick up their man, then it will leave Fletcher Cox and company licking their lips to exploit a monumental weakness in the Texans offense.
They say Football is won and lost in the trenches and last week, that absolutely was the case. This Sunday will likely give us much of the same, but the Eagles will need as much help from their Ski Mask wearing secondary as possible. The confidence is flowing through a unit that many presumed would have next to none and that’s a scary sight for opposing offenses. The defense is built in such a way that it lends itself to patient DB’s and the Eagles now have a plethora of them. Can they keep their swagger against the Texans? Only time will tell, but they’re well poised.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports