Oct 12, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbackNick Foles
(9) drops back to pas against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Giants 27-0. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles Cannot Be Foled, QB Play Must Improve
The Eagles Cannot Be Foled by the 5-1 record nor the early jump to the top. Don’t look at the points scored per games. Don’t look at the time of possession nor to the points allowed per game.
The statistic to see is the number of turnovers. Entering this Sunday, the Cardinals are at plus seven and the Eagles are at a minus five. That is a differential of twelve – or two turnovers per each of the six games the Eagles have played in. Of the total fourteen balls coughed up, seven were inteceptions from the arm of Nick Foles, and seven were fumbles, one by the starting quarterback.
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Now, don’t get me wrong. I would have thought of myself as being the LAST person to write a story highlighting the challenge of the team. But immediately after the Washington Redskins benched their starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, someone mentioned to me that the Eagles starting quarterback was really no different.
Tossing out the obvious differences in the win versus loss record, I pulled up some statistics to see if there was any validity to the statement. I found:
Kirk Cousins 126 of 204 (61.8%) 1,710 yds 10 TD 9 INT 8 sacks
Nick Foles 141 of 237 (59.5%) 1,628 yds 10 TD 7 INT 7 sacks
So that looks at least valid enough to draw comparisons.
But if the woeful plight of the Redskins and the incredible success of the Eagles cannot be tracked back to the quarterback play, then it must be the running game, right?
Philadelphia rushed for 166 times for 696 yards and 4 TD
Washington rushed for 170 times for 696 yards and 6 TD
Well, that can’t be it. So if it’s not the passing game and it’s not the running game, by process of elimination it must be either the defense or special teams or a combination of both.
Well on the defensive front:
Washington 321.9 YPG (2,253 yds) and 26.1 PPG
Philadelphia 380.8 YPG (2285 yds) and 22.0 PPG
So the Eagles defense gives up more yardage, but is stingier in points surrendered.
Now onto the special teams. The Philadelphia Eagles are the only NFL team to score on both a kickoff return – a 102 yard return by running back Chris Polk against the Washington Redskins and a punt return – an 82 yard return by running back Darren Sproles against the Saint Louis Rams . Add to that the TD from defensive end Fletcher Cox ran off a fumble recovery against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the pick six by safety Malcolm Jenkins against the San Francisco 49ers, and the blocked punt for a TD by wide receiver Brad Smith against the same San Francisco 49ers. In fact, the only special teams play where the Eagles have NOT scored a touchdown is a blocked field goal. But the season is still young.
So let’s wrap this up into a nice little package. The Philadelphia Eagles can’t be foled into thinking the offense is hunky dory and the defense needs work. The Eagles have scored 183 points this season. But 24 of those points (28 if you factor in the extra point) are NOT related to anything from the offense. Factored out, the offense is running 155 points so far this season, or on par with the struggling New Orleans Saints.
But we have to do the same for the defense. While subjective in nature, I reviewed the play of the first six games and have concluded that 34 points scored against the Eagles were directly related to turnovers in the Eagles territory. If you pull those 34 points from the total, the Eagles defense is giving up a total of 98 points in the season, or about 16 1/3 point per game.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well consider the Eagles would have tossed a shut out on the Jaguars if they had ball control in that game. Consider the four turnovers against the 49ers, which heavily contributed to points scored by the 49ers and eventually to the lone loss. Consider the game changing fumble by Foles against the Rams. I am ignoring for the sake of argument turnovers where the Eagles are on the verge of scoring. Turnovers have had tremendous impact on the tone of the games, if not to the end results just yet.
So in a ball control utopian world of my own imagination, where Eagles do not fumble nor throw interceptions, the Eagles offense is middle of the road, while the defense and special teams are pretty much at the top of the line.
“We’ve got to do a better job from that standpoint. Because you can’t continue to do it at that rate and end up on the right side of the ledger.”- Chip Kelly
The fix may already be in the works. The running game came back to life in the last two games played, with running back LeSean McCoy 81 and 149 yards respectfully. That time frame coincides, coincidentally, with the return of bruising right tackle Lane Johnson, whose 4 game suspension mixed with early season injuries to both left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce to place the Eagles offense in a precarious situation early.
Then again the fix may not be in the works. Even in the masterful game against the New York Giants, the Eagles still managed to turn the ball over two times to interceptions, while typically generous passer Eli Manning threw no picks.
This is not a statistic that can be ignored. As the Eagles begin this stretch against the better teams of the NFL in 2014, and as they begin to become aware of just how good they can be, the time to “get it fixed” has expired.
The process of maintaining ball security has to be off the blackboard, away from the practice field, and part of the NFL games going forward. Regardless of the quality of this team’s defense and special teams, giving the ball away is giving away points. It’s the one statistic that directly correlates to lack of success.
Kirk Cousins threw nine interceptions and was benched. What is the magic number for Chip Kelly before he considers a similar move? I’d rather not find out. The season can quickly spiral out of control when the fix is ball control.
Hopefully, the Eagles cannot be foled by the turnover statistic again. Hopefully the fix comes before persons lose their role on the team or their jobs.
I’m not asking for 2013 version of Nick Foles. I’m simply asking for the guy we hear about each week. You know, the “I have to fix that and I will” guy. In his own words:
"“I’m not (concerned) I will correct those. I will fix it and that’s just a part of football. You want to keep being aggressive. I made a couple of dumb mistakes with the football that I will work on. I can fix those things. They’re not over my head and that’s one of the things I love about this game. You can fix things.”"
Nick, take it from me. Don’t tell us you CAN fix it. FIX it and then let us tell you it’s fixed. Or as Chip Kelly says:
"“I thought we did a really good job from the running back and receiver standpoint of ball security, we’ve got to do a better job from that standpoint. Because you can’t continue to do it at that rate and end up on the right side of the ledger. The turnover differential is really big in this league in terms of being an indicator of wins and losses.” – Chip Kelly"
It’s the week before the Eagles fly west to begin one of the toughest stretches of the season, that begins with a road game in the harsh desert of Arizona and ends with a short week road game against hated rival Dallas. A lot will happen over the span of the next month or so. Hopefully, keeping a handle on the ball will be one of the changes.