Opponent Profile: Houston Texans Bring NFL’s Top Defensive Star Into Cowboys Game

By Shawn Lealos for CBSDFW.COM | CBS Local Sports

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a huge, surprising, win over the New Orleans Saints and hope to keep the momentum going as they welcome their in-state rival, the Houston Texans into AT&T Stadium for what they hope will be their fourth straight win. Here is a look at the Texans heading into the week’s big game.

Arian Foster

The Houston Texans opened the season with two big wins before falling to the New York Giants in week three. The big difference between the Texans in week three was that they were missing Arian Foster from the running game. After two games, Foster led the NFL in rushing attempts, and even after missing the third game with a hamsting injury, was in the top five.

Things changed in week four. Foster made his return, but since he was still hobbled from the hamstring injury, he rotated drives with rookie Alfred Blue. In the win over the Buffalo Bills, Foster finished with a low six yards on eight carries but did have seven receptions for 55 yards receiving. Foster is having a solid year, but is still coming off the hamstring injury.

That means that Dallas will also see a lot of Alfred Blue. In his start during week three, Blue ran the ball 13 times for 78 yards, an impressive 6.0 ypc. However, in the other three games this season, Blue has 21 carries for 49 yards, a very low 2.3 yards per carry. Houston needs Foster in the game to win, and if he is less than 100 percent, they will struggle.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Without Foster in week three, Houston’s new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was asked to carry the load for the team. He responded with his worst game of the season, throwing three interceptions and only one touchdown. While Houston won in week four, it was another tough outing for Fitzpatrick, throwing two more interceptions with only one touchdown. In the first two wins, he wasn’t asked to do much and looked solid. In the last two games, he was asked to carry the load and made a lot of mistakes.

Heading into the Dallas Cowboys game, he faces a defense that has five interceptions through the first four games as well as three fumble recoveries. Dallas is playing opportunistic football, and that could cause problems for Fitzpatrick.

Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins

Dallas is short at cornerback right now, with Morris Claiborne out for the season with a torn patellar tendon. This means that undrafted free agent Sterling Moore will need to step up to help out Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick against the Houston wideouts. In the past, that just meant Andre Johnson, but now DeAndre Hopkins has become the secondary receiver the Texans have always dreamed about.

Johnson leads the team with 22 receptions, while gaining 262 yards. He hasn’t found the end zone yet this season. Hopkins leads the team with 291 receiving yards on 18 receptions and has three touchdowns. The duo are becoming one of the NFL’s best wide receiver tandems and will be hard to keep under control.

J.J. Watt

Now, for the real reason that the Houston Texans are 3-1 right now. J.J. Watt is the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and owner Bob McNair said that he is worth every penny. He has 15 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery and just returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown in week four. There isn’t a better defensive lineman in the NFL and he will make Tony Romo’s life hard the entire game. The Cowboys’ offensive line has been solid this season, but J.J. Watt is on a completely different level.

For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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