You’d think they’d get a turnover or two just by accident. A tipped ball. A fumbled handoff. A strip sack.
Not this team.
Three weeks into the 2020 season, the Eagles don’t have a win and their defense doesn't have a takeaway, and there's definitely a connection.
You can’t win in the NFL if you turn the ball over and you can’t win if you don’t get takeaways. The Eagles are worst in the NFL at both of them.
This is the first time in franchise history the Eagles don’t have a defensive takeaway three weeks into a season.
There have only been two years where they had just one takeaway after three weeks: In Week 3 of 1996, Bobby Taylor picked off Lions QB Scott Mitchell, and in Week 3 of 1998, linebacker James Darling forced a fumble by Cards running back Adrian Murrell and Mike Zordich recovered it.
If you go back to the playoff loss to Seattle, the Eagles have gone four games with a defensive takeaway.
Their last one? Sidney Jones’ interception of Daniel Jones on the last day of the 2019 regular season.
That was 276 plays ago.
“We gotta do something to get the ball back to the offense as much as we can,” Darius Slay said.
The Eagles did have a takeaway on special teams – T.J. Edwards forced a Cooper Kupp fumble on a punt return. But their minus-7 turnover ratio is worst in the NFL, their eight turnovers are most in the league and their one takeaway is second-worst in the league (the Texans don’t have any).
Minus-7 is their second-worst turnover ratio ever after three games and worst since they were minus-8 in 1977.
“There’s plenty of plays out there, we just gotta wait ‘til the play comes to us,” Slay said. “Don’t force anything. Picks are going to come. We’re looking forward to our first one, because when that first one comes, they start coming in packs. We’ll continue to keep working, but we’re not going to force it. We can do better as a team as far as punching the ball out from ball-carriers, stuff like that, but we’re not gonna get outside the defense to get picks.”
The Eagles haven’t even been that close to many takeaways.
In the opener vs. Washington, Avonte Maddox dropped an interception and Josh Sweat forced a Dwayne Haskins fumble, but Washington offensive tackle Geron Christian recovered.
And that’s about it.
“It’s been brought up every week,” Rodney McLeod said. “We’ve lost the turnover battle (every week) and it’s possibly determined the outcome of the game. We’re trying to find ways to get our hands on balls throughout practice. Placing an emphasis on it. Especially on the back end. Once you get one, they come in bunches. I’m hoping that starts Sunday night for us. We’re going to need a few out there in San Fran. That’ll be the difference-maker in the game for us.”
The Eagles are 7-30-1 over the past decade when they don’t force a turnover.
They’re 84-49 when they do.
Since opening day 2018, they’re 27th in the league in takeaways and 28th with 22 interceptions.
This is the first time since 2007 they've been minus-2 or worse in turnover ratio three games in a row.
It hasn’t been pretty, but the winless Eagles are respectable in most defensive categories.
No. 5 in yards allowed, No. 5 in third-down conversion, No. 5 in run defense and No. 3 in sacks.
None of that matters if you’re not taking the ball away and giving it back to your offense, preferably with a short field.
“If you're hunting for turnovers, you're going to put yourself in bad position and we have seen that for probably a hundred years in the NFL,” Jim Schwartz said. “If you're going outside the scheme or you're just playing risky out there just to try to make a turnover, a lot of bad things can happen to you. If you're playing physical football, if you're playing responsibility, if you're doing your job, and you're around the quarterback a lot, I think the turnovers will come and they always have for us.”
Except this year. And last year. And the year before.