Turnovers destroyed the Eagles 2012 season, along with a number of other things it must be said, but in comparison to Eagles teams in the past decade just how bad where the Eagles when it came to turnovers?
The 2012 season was a shocker on many fronts be they defense or offense but turnovers are where we’re going to focus mainly due to the fact that turnovers will generally give you an idea if a team won or lost games. Granted this isn’t set in stone, look at week 1, against the Browns and the Eagles managed to turn the ball over on 5 occasions’. Thankfully the Browns followed in kind giving it back four times and also their TE I believe dropping a certain game winning TD pass. Against the Bengals we had another 5 turnover game, this time the Bengals only gave it back twice, already from two games were at -4 on turnovers.
In total the Eagles lost the ball 37 times in 2012, 22 via fumbles, 15 via INT’s. As for getting the ball back we only managed to force turnovers 13 times, our turnover differential ended at -24. Even worse looking down on the season the Eagles out of 16 games managed to play just two games where they didn’t lose the ball, Falcons and Giants. Compare that to games where we didn’t manage to get the ball back and out of 16 games, 9 of them featured not a single forced fumble or interception by our defense.
We finished dead last with the Jaguars last season and our numbers near matched with only our INT and fumble numbers being mirror images (we fumbled more, Jags threw more INT’s). Who was top? The Patriots naturally who managed 41 takeaways for the year… we managed 13 a whole 31% of the Patriots total. The Ravens and 49ers who went onto the Superbowl managed 25 takeaways and gave the ball away just 16 times. So the two Superbowl teams had 43% the amount of lost turnovers to the bottom of the NFC East… well the whole NFC, Philadelphia Eagles, now you see how much of an impact so many turnovers has on our team.
Compare that to our Superbowl year and whilst we didn’t exactly set the place alight we still managed 28 takeaways to 22 lost balls, a differential of plus 6 with the Patriots the eventual victors perched just above us with plus 9.
The main point here is that the more turnovers generally speaking the more wins (obviously you’re going to get slight discrepancies year to year). Last year a minus 24 turnover differential resulted in just 4 wins for the season. In 2004 we had plus 6 and 13 wins and I think the rest are best illustrated as seen below.
As you can see the amount of turnovers the Eagles had closely matches the amount of wins the team managed in said year. 2003 and 2004 saw the biggest dip in comparison to the win total, in 2004 we ended up in the Superbowl and in 2003 the entire league seemed to struggle with turnovers. Despite the Eagles only managing plus 4 turnovers they were still sitting at eight best in the NFL.
Another point to note is a certain number 5 who is retiring an Eagle against the Chiefs. He left in 2009, see how quickly the numbers slide and quite dramatically so. Some of this is undoubtedly on the defence’s inability to turn the ball over, at the same time Vick and Foles (Brown somewhat too) are surely to blame for giving the ball away so much. Despite all of McNabb’s shortcomings he didn’t actually turn the ball over all that often his worst year probably being 2003 when, funny old thing, the turnover numbers don’t quite match our total wins. Even when he did lose the ball he could still salvage something from the game.
Another thing to look at is personnel, so who were our best players for turnovers last season? Recently cut DRC who managed 3 interceptions and back-up for 2013, Kurt Coleman with 2 INT’s and a forced fumble. In fairness to Babin he was probably top of our turnover chart with 2 forced fumble’s before being cut, I do wonder if he may have finished with even bigger numbers perhaps not the best idea cutting him I think personally. DRC was never amazing in Philadelphia, teamed up with Nnamdi they were meant to be the most elite DB unit in the league, what we got were two guys who struggled to tackle and blew coverage’s more times than I care to remember. Coleman is going to be a back-up this year and yet joint-led the team with turnovers forced in 2012.
Shall we look at our best year for turnovers, 2002. Who tops the list then… Dawkins of course, 5 forced fumbles and to boot two INT’s and his three sacks only increased the likelihood of a team turnover. LB Barber got four turnovers, CB Taylor got seven, Kalu managed three along with Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis managed five from just four games started. Seven players who either matched or flat out beat our 2012 defense in terms of single player turnovers gained. What does that tell you? Not that you need elite players (although it helps) but that you need to REPLACE them, something Reid neglected to do. Dawkins left and we found little to replace him, Brown’s void is still somewhat visible and even Bobby Taylor who had a good career in Philly, bar his foot giving him the odd niggle from time to time, has had little in the way of a replacement filling his shoes. Reid brought in expensive guys who could do everything and yet did nothing for the Eagles, in reality he should have relied on youth and used the draft to fill these voids.
We were used to players that could smash the ball out backs arms and guys who could leap from nowhere and pluck an Eli pass taking it back for six. When these guys left all we got were guys who couldn’t leap, were scared to hit hard and simply couldn’t tackle.
What do I hope for? Obviously the graph above to SPIKE to the top and beyond, will it? Whilst I think Chip will get a lot more than Reid ever did from this defense and I do think we’ll start to level out somewhat on turnovers I’m not quite expecting miracles in his first year. He will coach and drum it into the guys head’s not to give that ball away (what coach doesn’t) what he needs to be great at is teaching the D how to get that ball back.