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The Texans Seven Return To Houston

Posted Oct 31, 2014

Head coach Chip Kelly joked with reporters this week that the Eagles "just love Texans" since there are seven former Houston players on the current roster. Here is a look at the seven players who will return to Houston to face their former team this Sunday ...

1. Ryans Recalls First NFL Game

The first and only time that the Eagles traveled to Houston to face the Texans was on September 10, 2006. It was the season opener for both teams as well as the NFL debut for second-round pick DeMeco Ryans.

Ryans, a first-team All-America selection at Alabama, had quite a debut with 13 tackles (12 solo). He made his presence felt early stopping running back Brian Westbrook for a loss of 2 yards on the Eagles' first run play of the game.

"It's your first NFL game. You're kind of nervous going in, playing a good team like the Eagles - Donovan McNabb, Westbrook. It was fun. I remember that. I had a good game, my first game," Ryans said.

The only problem? Westbrook finished with 132 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in a 24-10 victory for the Eagles.

"The team really wasn't that good, but it was a good first outing for me," Ryans laughed. "It was a confidence booster as a rookie coming in being able to go against those guys who were good."

2. No Pressure, But Barwin Wants To Deliver

"I've got to have a good game Sunday."

Connor Barwin wants to have one every week, but the linebacker who was named to Sports Illustrated's Midseason All-Pro team wants to show his former team what they're missing.

After deciding not to compete with the Eagles' six-year contract offer in 2013, Barwin is the team's leader in sacks with six and second in quarterback hurries with 12 this year.

"I had a great four years there. I was lucky to be there; I think it's a great organization, I think they bring in good guys, a lot of my friends are still on that team. It'll be fun to go back, see those guys. They're in the AFC, so I wish them the best as long as they're not playing against us," Barwin said.

Barwin has not only been proficient at getting after the quarterback, but he's also made an impact even if he doesn't get the sack. In his time with the Eagles, Barwin has 11 battled passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Barwin's former teammate, J.J. Watt, has been prolific in his own right with 13 batted passes over the last two years.

3. Donnie Jones Got First Taste Of Playoffs

Punter Donnie Jones spent just one year in Houston, but his brief time with the Texans left quite the impression on the well-traveled veteran specialist.

In large part, it's because he left the St. Louis Rams after going 15-65 in five seasons and joined a winning team.

"We had a great year," Jones explained. "That was my ninth season in the NFL, and it was my first time being in the playoffs. We had gone when I was in Seattle, but I was on the practice squad, so it was actually my first playoff experience. It was awesome to play for a winning team.”

Jones said that he was really impressed with the way the entire Texans organization was run, calling his tenure with the Texans an eye-opening experience.

"When I was in Houston, I really enjoyed my time there," Jones explained. "They had a great program, and they really did things the right way."

4. Andrew Gardner Is Quite Familiar With J.J. Watt

Tackle Andrew Gardner spent a solid three-year chunk of his young career with the Houston Texans.

He had a chance to survey a talented crop of players during his time in Texas, and he said this week that All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt is as good as advertised, if not more so.

One big thing that stood out to Gardner? Watt's intelligence.

"More than anything he's a smart player, and he's a player that works hard," Gardner explained. "(Watt) knows what he sees out there, and sometimes he'll take some risks, but they're very calculated risks and he knows what he's doing.”

Gardner said Watt's game is the ultimate combination of brains and brawn, and the all-important facet of a man willing to apply himself to achieve big things.

"Really what I think it is, is a guy that has talent, and then on top of that talent he has a supreme work ethic," Gardner continued. "When you put those things together, you get a really special player."

5. Jeff Maehl: The Daily Double

Wide receiver Jeff Maehl played for the Texans in 2011 and was on their practice squad in 2012, his first two seasons in the NFL, and he said this week that he's excited to go back to the place his NFL career began.

"It's going to be fun," Maehl said. "I look forward to seeing all of the guys that I was there with, the trainers and all of them. And it'll be good to be back in Houston.

"I really enjoyed my time out there. It'll be good to get back in the city and whatnot."

Maehl went to Oregon University, as Kelly noted Maehl is the "daily double" having played at both Oregon and Houston. It was at Oregon where he met Eddie Pleasant, who entered the NFL in 2012 and joined Maehl in Houston. The two played together for one year in Houston before Maehl came to Philadelphia.

Maehl said the two still talk every once in a while, and that he's excited to see Pleasant, along with the rest of his friends from Houston.

"I had great relationships with a lot of them," he said, "so it'll be fun seeing them."

6. Braman Thankful For Barwin, Ryans

Linebacker Bryan Braman was a rookie free agent in Houston in 2011. Two of the teammates he leaned on during his three-year stint with the Texans were Barwin and Ryans - players with whom he has reunited with in Philadelphia.

"Connor was kind of the guy who took me under his wing when I was in Houston, kind of showed me the ropes," Braman said. "I backed him up as a rookie. Being able to look up to him and see the way you're supposed to act as a professional, the way programs are run and stuff like that. I'm not really sure if anybody knew that I had backed him up in Houston for two years, but that's the case.

"And then DeMeco, the good guy that he is, just an unbelievable leader. He was the same way in Houston. It didn't matter what it came down to. He's definitely been influential in being a leader on the defense, understanding the way things go and he's definitely somebody that everybody on the team can go to."

Braman, a native of Spokane, Wash., first arrived in Texas to play college football at West Texas A&M in 2009. He was recruited there by defensive line coach Bobby King, who later was with the Texans as a defensive assistant in 2011 when Braman signed.

7. Two Dreams Came True For Casey In Houston

Tight end James Casey had spent three years in the Chicago White Sox organization when he decided to pursue a career in football. The challenge for Casey was finding a college willing to offer a player three years removed from high school a scholarship.

Enter Rice University in Houston.

"The NFL was so far away at that point when I got released from baseball it was hard to even imagine that. If you told me then that I was going to be playing in the NFL I couldn't even imagine it. Once I got to Rice and I got that scholarship, you want to set high goals. If you're going to play football, you might as well try to be the best at it. That's how I approach everything. If you're going to do it, you might as well try to be the best at it," Casey recalled.

After two years at Rice, he was a fifth-round pick of the Texans in 2009. A triple major in economics, managerial studies and sport management, Casey returned to school in the 2011 offseason to complete his degree. Casey signed a three-year deal with the Eagles in 2013 and has been a key member of the tight ends and special teams units.

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