Last season, the Eagles ran the ball just around 47 percent of the time.
This season, that ratio is nowhere near as balanced, with the Birds running just around a third of the time.
This puts a lot of pressure on Nick Foles, a quarterback who has made more than his fair share of turnovers thus far in the Eagles’ 5-2 season.
The Texans will be another tough test for the Eagles, as their offensive line’s ability to get the running game going will be paramount.
With the Cowboys seemingly on the ropes following an overtime loss to the Redskins last week — and Tony Romo questionable at best with a back injury, the Eagles could grasp first place with a win Sunday.
The Eagles running defense has been solid. But a solid effort likely won’t take care of the red-hot Arian Foster.
“He’s got great vision and a great understanding of running zone plays, whether it be the wide-zone play or the tight-zone play,” Chip Kelly said of Foster. “And then makes great decisions of sticking his foot in the ground and getting physical and getting up the field.”
The Texans running back has gained more than 100 yards on the ground in four straight games, and in six of seven this year. He also has seven touchdowns, six in the last four games.
But Kelly still thinks the Eagles’ defensive line is up to the task.
“I think our guys are playing with great fundamentals,” the coach said. “Our defensive line, especially, is doing a great job of two‑gapping things, especially when we are in our base defense, and forming flat walls across the front and making the ball bounce to the perimeter.”
The Eagles need to shut down Arian Foster. They’ll be content with simply containing J.J. Watt.
Arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, Watt has seven sacks this season and is a game-changeron the defensive front.
“Well, he’s very hard,” Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “He’s certainly a guy that can wreck the game and he’s proven it. He’s taken interceptions back for touchdowns. He’s a very difficult guy to block. He’s going to be a tough challenge for our guys.”
Shurmursays blocking Watt one-on-one is nearly impossible, and Chip Kelly agrees.
“There’s going to be some times where he’s one‑on‑one and you’re going to have to be able to block him in one‑on‑one situations,” Kelly said.
Red zone offense
This key has been the same the entire season. The Eagles are dead last in red zone offense and failed to score a touchdown in three attempts in their narrow loss to the Cardinals last week.
With a miniscule 34.78 percent touchdown clip inside the 20-yard line, it seems to be irrelevant how dynamic the Eagles offense in between the 20’s. If they can’t get more than field goals, they cant win games.
More than simply settling for field goals, coach Kelly knows the Birds also can’t continue to turn the ball over in the red zone anymore.
“[It’s] turnovers,” Kelly said. “You’re not going to score any points in there. I think our mind‑set is you have three, we’re greedy and we want seven, but you can’t come away without anything in that situation. I think the turnovers are really the biggest part that’s killing us in the red zone right now.”