Eagle’s Defense Deserves Plenty Of Blame
By Rob Maaddi
Zero takeaways with eight sacks is difficult to accomplish yet somehow the Eagles pulled that off in a tie against the Bengals.
When a rookie quarterback goes down eight times in a game, it’s reasonable to assume one of those pressures resulted in a fumble or an errant throw that was picked. Nope. Joe Burrow didn’t turn the ball over. Neither did Jared Goff last week nor turnover-prone Dwayne Haskins in Week 1.
The Eagles have not forced a single turnover on defense in 13 quarters this season. Their only takeaway came on a fumbled punt against the Rams.
So while the heat is on Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson and an out-of-sync offense, this defense deserves plenty of blame for an 0-2-1 start.
“We have to do better with that,” defensive end Brandon Graham said about not forcing any turnovers. “We were talking about it out there, trying to make turnover plays. They did a good job on protecting the ball. Opportunities came for us to get the ball and we just didn’t get it.”
The Eagles lack playmakers on defense, guys who have a knack for coming up with the ball. Linebacker Jordan Hicks had 13 takeaways _ seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries _ in four seasons with the team. The Eagles let him walk away after the 2018 season. Malcolm Jenkins also had 13 takeaways _ eight picks and five fumble recoveries _ in five seasons in Philly. He was released to save money.
The Eagles have a high-priced defensive line that finally showed up and got to the quarterback Sunday. But they don’t have ferocious hitters anywhere on defense, guys who can knock the ball loose with a crunching tackle.
“As a true competitor, I want to win each and every game,” safety Jalen Mills said. “I want it to be on the defense’s back, regardless of whatever happens. So us getting maybe one more play, getting a strip sack, getting an interception, whatever it may be, getting a fumble, I feel that we could have gotten one more play in. It could have made the difference.”
Beyond the inability to create turnovers, Jim Schwartz’s unit has been poor in the red zone _ nine touchdowns allowed in 13 trips inside their 20. They were lost and confused against the Rams, surrendering 37 points. But their performance against the Bengals was even more disappointing. Facing a guy making his third career start, they couldn’t stop the pass even when the Bengals posed no threat of running it successfully. Burrow had wide-open receivers, a sight you don’t see when Wentz has the ball except the one time Greg Ward was alone down the right side for a touchdown.
When the offense is struggling, the defense needs to do its part. So far, they haven’t.