If you’re looking for one simple stat that explains better than anything why the Eagles’ defense is struggling, we’ve got it.
Specifically, a lack of them.
Not only are the Eagles on pace to tie the fewest turnovers in franchise history during a 16-game season — 13 during the 2012 nightmare — they are actually on pace to tie the overall franchise record for any length season.
Check this out:
Only 12 teams IN NFL history have ever had 13 or fewer takeaways in a season.
This is a problem. Check this out:
• The Eagles have six takeaways this year, just three in their last five games.
• They’ve gone a franchise-record five straight games with zero or one takeaway.
• The Eagles had 31 takeaways last year, fourth-most in the NFL. They’re on pace for 13 this year, fourth-fewest in the NFL.
• Their six takeaways are the fewest in franchise history after seven games.
The almost complete absence of takeaways is shocking on the heels of last year. Here's Jim Schwartz on the Eagles' historic lack of takeaways:
We haven't been taking the ball away, and I think there's a fine line there, and you always warn the players, sometimes chasing takeaways, chasing turnovers, puts you in worse position. You start giving up plays. Guys press too much. They go for the strip instead of the tackle and you give up a bigger play or they go for the interception instead of the PBU (pass breakup), and you give up a big play or stuff like that. You've got to temper that.
That's a thing that was a common theme for us last year that we haven't really been able to get our feet under us this year in creating those game-changing plays. Before we gave up the 4th-and-10 play (35-yard Cam Newton pass to Torrey Smith), I mean, we were a couple inches away from getting an interception. When Cam throws the ball, he's getting hit, it's that close to stripping the ball. This is a game of inches. It doesn't change the win or the loss, but that's just what you have to do. We need to find a way to come up with those plays without pressing, without playing out of our character.
Here’s the craziest thing: The Eagles have just four interceptions, and two of them were by backups — Rasul Douglas was in briefly against the Falcons in place of Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox was in against the Titans in place of Corey Graham.
Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 279 passes against the Eagles. Four have been intercepted. Two by starters.
But this isn’t just a reflection of the secondary, it’s a reflection of a lack of playmaking from the entire defense.
Not enough pressure up front, not enough playmaking at linebacker, not enough hands on the football in the defensive backfield.
And forget interceptions. The Eagles have recovered only two opposing fumbles. Only the Titans have recovered fewer. They’ve recovered one. And it was by Carson Wentz.
Which leads us to this:
At minus-4, the Eagles are tied for 27th in the league in turnover margin.
It’s not just the defense. It’s the whole team. The offense has the 12th-most turnovers in the league.
It’s a lethal combination.
The top 10 teams in the league in turnover ratio are 41-23. The bottom 10 are 21-45.
And the Eagles are firmly in the bottom 10.
Maybe this is all regression to the mean. In other words, the longer a period of time, the more a team is likely to trend toward the middle in any given statistical category.
Or maybe there’s just something missing. A certain hunger. A certain drive. A certain ferocious mentality that made this one of the league’s best teams and defenses a year ago.
It’s clear something is missing.
Takeaways and wins go hand-in-hand. And until the Eagles start getting the first one, it’s going to be very hard for them to get the second one.