PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Matt Schaub watched Michael Vick in awe as his backup in Atlanta, learning from one of the NFL’s biggest stars.
Schaub is doing just fine on his own now. And Vick, well, he’s bounced back quite nicely after nearly ruining his career.
When the Houston Texans (5-6) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (7-4) on Thursday night, it’ll be a reunion for the two quarterbacks. It also will be a homecoming for Schaub, who played high school football 22 miles west of the Linc at West Chester East High.
“I’m looking forward to playing against him and playing up there in Philadelphia,” Schaub said. “That’s where I grew up, so it will be fun to go back home and play up there.”
Schaub will have family and friends in the stands, and his old buddy on the other sideline.
“I learned a lot watching Mike and playing behind him for three years,” Schaub said. “He was one of the most, at the time, visible and talented sports figures, along with the likes of Tiger Woods, in the world. Just learning and watching him go through a game plan each week, what he had to deal with being the starting quarterback, there were just a ton of things I learned and took away from that.”
Schaub has developed into a Pro Bowl player himself. He passed for 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns last year, and he has 2,752 yards passing and 15 TDs this season.
Vick was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his six seasons with the Falcons. He’s playing even better now with the NFC East-leading Eagles, and is an MVP candidate.
“When things don’t happen in rhythm, he becomes such a weapon,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “We got our hands full, but we played better defensively the last few weeks. This will be the biggest challenge thus far. We need to handle that challenge as a team, not just one group. We need to handle it as a football team.”
Vick is coming off his first loss this season in a game that he started and finished. He won his first five before the Chicago Bears kept him in check during a 31-26 victory. Vick threw for 333 yards, but the Bears took away Philadelphia’s big plays and consistently pressured him.
Chicago frustrated Vick and the Eagles by getting a strong pass rush from their front four and dropping seven players into coverage. Vick was constantly harassed by Julius Peppers throughout the game, and he’ll have to watch out for Houston’s Mario Williams in this one.
“He’s a special player,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He’s very, very gifted and he plays very similar to Julius. So I would put them in that elite defensive end category, blue chip player. I’d put him in that category.”
The Texans are coming off a 20-0 win over Tennessee that snapped a four-game losing streak. The victory was overshadowed by Andre Johnson’s fight with Cortland Finnegan. Both players were fined $25,000, but avoided suspensions.
Johnson is eager to get back on the field and move past the incident, which has been replayed thousands of times on highlights shows.
“It’s going to be a big test for us, big game on the road for us,” Johnson said. “Not much time to let your body heal, but at the same time, we all have to rally together to go out and get the job done.”
Both teams had to get back to practice on Monday, which is an off day in normal weeks. The one advantage the Eagles have is that they’re home, so they avoid a flight.
“I, personally, don’t mind it, because it’s less about the scheme and, it’s more going back to stuff that we have done since the beginning of training camp,” Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said. “It’s more about just playing football and letting us play. I think that’s fun, man. It’s going to be about just playing ball. Put a hat on a hat, go out there and tackle well, get off blocks, and maybe we will see something that they haven’t shown, but I want to play ball, so that’s what I look at it as.”
There could be plenty of scoring. The Eagles have the second-ranked offense in the NFL and the Texans are seventh. Houston is 28th in defense while Philadelphia is 10th. But the Eagles struggled against Jay Cutler and the Bears, allowing four TD passes.
The return of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel should help Philadelphia’s secondary. Samuel didn’t play against Chicago because of a knee injury. He leads the league with seven interceptions despite missing two games.
The Eagles are hoping to get receiver DeSean Jackson on track. The Pro Bowl wideout was held to two catches against the Bears, though he dropped a few for the second straight week.
“I think teams are focusing on trying to take away from the things that we do,” Jackson said. “As an offense, and as the type of player that I am, I feel we should go out there and just find different ways to go out there and take advantage of things. You just have to be patient. You’re not going to always be able to score touchdowns and do all those type of things because people watch film and people are paid just like we are.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)