Baltimore Ravens vs Houston Texans: Scouting the Enemy


Sep 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) reacts after recording a sack against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

This week’s Scouting the Enemy will be a little different, as the Houston Texans are governed more by star power than by a deep roster. Thus, guys like Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt will be at the heart of this week’s article.

That’s not to say the Texans don’t have talent elsewhere. They are pretty stout along the offensive line. where the fivesome of Duane Brown, Derek Newton, Chris Meyers, Brandon Brooks and Ben Jones have all played at least 900 plays this season. That continuity has gone a long way in generating running lanes for Foster and protecting whoever is at quarterback.

Speaking of quarterback, that’s where the Ravens have the biggest advantage. The Texans, decimated by injuries, will be forced to start either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis. Ick. Prior to his injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick had been in the midst of arguably the best stretch of his career.

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Before we get to the stars, the Texans’ secondary deserves a little credit as well. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson make a very solid cornerback duo. The Ravens may have trouble passing in Houston against this duo.

Now on to the stars. The Texans have three big ones: DeAndre Hopkins, who has overtaken Andre Johnson as the Texan’s leading receiver, Arian Foster and J.J. Watt.

Hopkins is in the midst of a breakout year, having caught 69 balls on just 109 targets for 1,167 yards. He is one of very few NFL receivers to average more than 10 yards per target. Hopkins is dangerous after the catch, averaging over five yards after the catch, and he is among the NFL’s best deep threats as well with his combination of speed and size. On 23 deep targets this year, Hopkins has caught 12 for 458 yards. His 52.2 catch rate on deep balls ranks second among qualifying receivers on Pro Football Focus.

Unlike Hopkins, who has flown under the radar, Watt is a name everyone knows. He is the most dominant player in the NFL and probably one of the most dominant in NFL history. His ability to make NFL offensive linemen look like children is unparalleled. Good luck trying to block him.

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Finally, Arian Foster, who stands out as the player the Ravens most need to stop. Foster is having a great comeback year after a down 2013, averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 1,137 rushing yards so far this year. Foster is a downhill, decisive runner with above average vision and the ability to pick up a few yards after contact. He is exactly the kind of big, physical back the Ravens tend to struggle with (see Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 54 yards on just 13 carries last week). In his last three games against the Ravens, Foster rushed for 132, 98 and 54, all on averages over 4.5 yards per carry.

With Keenum or Lewis at quarterback, the Ravens can sell out to stop the run. That would be wise as long as Hopkins is accounted for.

The Ravens don’t need to fully neutralize these three players to win, but they need to at least limit the damage they can cause. On the road, that could prove to be a tall task.