Behind Enemy (Side)Lines" is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagle.com gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.*
- What's it like having so many former Texans on the team? Is it strange that so many have landed on Philadelphia's roster?*
"Yeah, it's a weird pipeline. Obviously, DeMeco Ryans has been a great trade for the Eagles. I think it's worked out well for the Texans, you've got some good players there. That started and it just kept coming and coming and moves were being made. Who is Andrew Gardner, James Casey? Who are all these players? It's been fun to see and they are wonderful players. They fit into this culture very nicely. They've always had good things to say about the fans of Houston, the organization but yeah, a strange pipeline. At the end of this preseason, the pipeline goes the other way and you guys signed Damaris Johnson after he was released here. There is certainly a connection between the Houston Texans and the Philadelphia Eagles in more ways than one."
- DeMeco Ryans was a leader in the Texans locker room, has he had a similar role for Philadelphia's defense?*
"The best – he is the best and I've been here a long, long time. A lot of success under Andy Reid, now Chip Kelly for the Eagles, a lot of leaders and you have to win with leadership. DeMeco is right there. He came in at a time when it was very difficult at the end of Andy Reid's tenure, a tough time for the Eagles. DeMeco is such an upbeat person, such a standup guy. Even when the Eagles were going through that really tough 4-12 season in 2012, he was there every day for the media, every day for his teammates. He plays hurt, as you guys know. The only time he's been out of the game is when he tore the Achilles tendon when he was with Houston. I cannot say enough nice things about DeMeco."
3. Another former Texan, Connor Barwin, is having a lot of success in Philadelphia. How has Barwin's pass rush evolved over the past few seasons as an Eagle?
"Coming in, he'd had time in Houston to be a pass rusher and then he played the strong side and the numbers went down but apparently the quality of play did not. He has been given an opportunity of late to rush the quarterback more and he's delivered. He's got six sacks. He's very, very strong. He is always in the right place and is extremely intelligent. He's got the big wing span. He's been the prototype strong-side linebacker here that the Eagles haven't had a in a long time. In the locker room, a wonderful guy, and in the community has fit in perfectly. He has really elevated himself as a player in the community, a true-and-true Philadelphian very quickly."
- Running back Darren Sproles returned to practice this week. What's been the latest on him and how does he look coming off the knee injury?*
"There's a lot of optimism that he will play. The Eagles would love to have him in the punt return game and as an option in the offense. He's obviously a big playmaker, has been terrific for the Eagles and they missed him last week in Arizona. His absence was felt. The Eagles didn't have the explosiveness in the punt return game and as an option coming out of the backfield. It looks promising but we probably won't know until we get closer to game-time."
5. How is LeSean McCoy used in the offense? How has the tandem of Sproles-McCoy looked so far?
"I don't think we've seen the best of it yet and the Eagles offensive line has been very heavily impacted by injuries. Lane Johnson, the right tackle, missed the first four games of the season with the NFL suspension for substance abuse. Jason Kelce, the center, went down in the second week of the season and he's been out. Evan Mathis, the left guard, has been out since Week 1.
"One of the keys to LeSean McCoy leading the NFL in rushing, leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage, was an offensive line that started and played together for 92 percent of the snaps. They've just not had that fivesome in there at one time. It looks like Jason Kelce has a chance to play at center this week which would be huge and Mathis expected to return next week for the Carolina Panthers. So, it's getting better as the offensive line gets better.
"McCoy's production the last couple of weeks has improved – had a 149 yards rushing against the Giants three Sundays ago, then they had the bye week. This past Sunday, 83 yards rushing against Arizona. Still not the gashing, turn-the-field-around plays that he had last year, but I think the Eagles feel when the offensive line gets back up to speed then those run lanes will be back."
6. How has Nick Foles game changed this season? He's running one of the fastest offenses in the league and has already put up four 300-yard games.
"Nick's challenge this year, as wide open and as statistically impressive as it has been, there are two areas that have really hurt this team. One is turnovers. Last year, Nick Foles had a historic 27 touchdowns, two interceptions. No way to expect him to repeat that kind of season but now he has 12 turnovers. He's got nine interceptions, three lost fumbles, making some bad decisions, throwing off his back foot, being inaccurate. It's really hampered them in the red zone.
"The Eagles are last in the NFL in touchdown efficiency in the red zone. That is not acceptable. A year after a plus-12 turnover ratio, they are now minus-7. That's 28th in the league and you don't win like that. Eagles have been right there in every game and there have been a lot of close games.
"Nick knows this week, he's going to get a lot of pressure from an outstanding Houston Texans defense. That front seven is just unbelievable with (J.J.) Watt and now (Jadeveon) Clowney back in and a lot of good designs in that defense. He's got to make quick decisions, good decisions, be accurate, and the ball security has to improve because it has really cost the Eagles in their two losses (Arizona, San Francisco) and, at times, in the five wins."
The (4-4) Texans will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. CT on FOX KRIV-26 and SportsRadio 610.