The Disturbing Truth About the Eagles Offense and How It's Making Their Defense Worse

The Disturbing Truth About the Eagles Offense and How It's Making Their Defense Worse

Like statistics? Good, because here's a stat for you: the Philadelphia Eagles are almost as likely to commit a turnover as they are to score a touchdown. Now what does it have to do with defense?

There are a few things we know for certain are true about the Eagles defense. They've blown five fourth-quarter leads this season, which is simply disgusting regardless of anything else. By any conventional measure, they're not particularly good against the run, their 4.8 yards per carry allowed being the sixth-worst in the NFL. Oh, and their defensive coordinator was the offensive line coach the previous 13 years, and he has Jaiquawn Jarrett covering Larry Fitzgerald one-on-one when the game is on the line.

They're also responsible for more than half of the team's scoring the past two weeks. So why does it seem like the offense is still getting a pass?

There is no question this defense is not what it should be, but even though Castillo won't work as a scapegoat for Andy Reid, he does seem to make a perfect human shield for Michael Vick. Since Vick had another one of those Superman performances against the Cowboys, where the Eagles were able to do whatever they wanted en route to scoring on their first six possessions, the offense has not been able to get it going the last two games.

Of the Eagles 41 points against Chicago and Arizona, the Eagles managed a meager 17 on conventional scoring drives starting from inside their own territory. The defense, however, provided a touchdown in both contests. Nnamdi Asomugha's interception in the fourth quarter on Sunday put them in field goal range -- a good thing, because the offense went three and out -- and a fumble recovery on Monday Night Football set up a 33-yard LeSean McCoy touchdown jaunt.

In other words, the defense has actually been CARRYING the offense the past two weeks... and that's only the beginning.

LOSING THE FIELD POSITION BATTLE
As if that weren't enough, the offense sure made life difficult for their D against the Bears. Of the 30 points that were scored, only 10 were on possessions starting from further out than the Chicago 42-yard line -- not to mention the seven DeSean Jackson essentially handed them with that fumble at his own nine.

What's the point? When that 30 pops up on the scoreboard, it looks like the defense did a horrible job. The truth of the matter is, they were set up to fail.

All things being equal, it is the defense's job to stop the opposing team from getting into the end zone no matter where the possession begins. However, it goes without saying that possessions beginning from the opponent's own 40-yard line or closer have a much higher probability of producing points, particularly those that start within field goal range.

The Eagles have defended against 98 offensive series this season. 18 of those, or 18.4%, began at their opponent's own 40 or better. How did the ball get there? The most common result is either via turnover, or the offense conceded the field position with a punt from deep inside their own zone. Those possessions account for 12 of all 33 scoring drives against the Eagles' defense this season, or 36.4%.

To summarize, almost one in five times the defense walks on the field, they are starting with their backs against the wall. Meanwhile, over one-third of all scoring against the Eagles occurred under these circumstances.

45 total drives, or 45.9%, began between the opponents' 20- and 39-yard lines, accounting for 48.5% of all scoring drives. That equates to a 35.6% success rate inside the typical starting point, which admittedly is not great, but still almost twice as good as the 66.7% success rate from the 40 on. For comparison's sake, the other 33.7% of drives that began inside the opponents' own 20 have a much lower 15.2% success rate. The defense is almost twice as likely to create a turnover, and it's nearly four-times as likely they will force a punt from that distance.

One more time, the breakdown:
Scoring from drives starting inside the 20: 15.2%
... from drives starting between the opponents' 20-39: 48.5%
... from drives starting at the opponents' 40 or closer: 36.4%

The Bears game is one example of where field position did a number on the Eagles' chances, but the same thing happened in Atlanta back in Week 2. Three out of the five touchdowns the Falcons scored actually started in Philadelphia territory, at the 38, 24, and 49 respectively. The defense is ultimately accountable for allowing 65 points between these two opponents, but the offense should actually share some of the blame for at least 41 of them.

But wait, there's more!

COMING UP SHORT
So the defense is getting the short end of the stick. Big deal. They're still not very good. The Eagles had leads in five of these games.

Let's talk about turnovers. We all know what those are, and they are very, very bad. They kill drives, and as we just revealed, can give away field position. Looking at it from another point of view though, they have also taken a consequential number of points away from the offense in 2011.

The Eagles have 21 turnovers this season, which out of 97 total possessions means they've given it away 21.6% of the time. Now, we can't assume they would have scored on all 21 drives, since they only come away with points 38.1% of their possessions. However, nearly one-third of those turnovers we can state pretty emphatically that, yes, they should have scored.

Seven is the number of turnovers the Eagles committed from inside the red zone, or one-third of all turnovers, and 7.2% of all possessions. That means seven times when they were all but assured of netting at least three points, they gave the ball away without scoring any. Even if we were to assume three is all they got, that's 21 points they left on the field... but hold the phone. They didn't merely lose 21 points -- three of those turnovers went for 17 points the other way, causing the total point swing to be closer to 38.

Not only are they fortunate to have only allowed 17 points off red zone turnovers, we are being generous in saying they only erased 21 from their own pocket. These aren't meaningless, either. For instance, three points instead of Ronnie Brown's backward-pass fumble would have made the difference against the 49ers. These plays add up.

There's another type of turnover most people aren't even talking about -- turnovers on downs. Another seven Eagles drives ended from their failure to convert on fourth down. On the season, they are 5-for-12. Only three teams have gone for it as many or more times, and none has a lower rate of conversion.

When you add it all up, the Eagles are almost giving the ball away as often as they score. 22.7% of drives end with a touchdown, while 21.6% end with a turnover. 38.1% end with some type of scoring play, and 28.9% end with the offense giving the ball back without so much as a field goal try or punt. It's not just inconsistent. It's completely inefficient.

All told, opponents have scored 56 points off of interceptions and fumble recoveries, which accounts for 27.6% of all scoring against the Birds this year. We're at the home stretch.

LOOKING AT IT PLAINLY
13, 35, 29, 24, 24, 13, 7, 30, 21 -- these are the total number of points the Eagles defense gave up in every game this season. The only games they've won all season are where the defense held the opponent to 13 or less.

Think about that for a second. Even if the defense is terrible, this means their offense hasn't outscored anybody in a tough game all year. The offense that's third in the NFL in yards per game, and returned all their starting skill position players from last season, hasn't been able to go out and
simply put more points on the board than the other team to put themselves in a position where the defense couldn't possibly let them down.

And these aren't all extremely high totals. 35, 29, and 30 are on the larger end, but 46 points off turnovers were scored in those three contests alone versus the Falcons, Giants, and Bears. The rest of them -- 24, 24, and 21 -- two of those were against the 22nd and 23rd ranked defense in the league! The Eagles couldn't manage more than three touchdowns against any of them?

At least the defense has an excuse. They have a new defensive coordinator, who may very well be as incompetent as his press clippings would indicate, not to mention six new starters. They tried to throw this collection of new coaches, free agents, and inexperienced players into a blender during a shortened off-season, and it's certainly shown.

What's the offense's excuse? Okay, play calling has been curious at times, never moreso than on Sunday against the Cardinals, when LeSean McCoy had 14 carries while Vick struggled mightily. I agree, that doesn't make sense.

When has Vick carried this club on his back this season though? When has the passing game functioned properly at all? When have these star receivers produced in the clutch? When has the offense been able to get one or two yards when they needed it most?

The only thing more brutal than watching this season go up in smoke is knowing that the explanations for why this is happening don't make much sense. Yes, the defense hasn't been able to secure leads -- but how many times should they have actually been counted on to do so, knowing the offense basically has been pissing into the wind?

The defense isn't good. The offense is the reason the Eagles are 3-6.

* All mentions of "possessions" only counts possessions where the offense would attempt and legitimately could be expected to score. Any possession that ends with a kneel down, or where the distance to be traveled to get into a scoring position was highly unlikely with the given time remaining on the clock, were not counted. All facts and figures regarding possessions compiled by the author.

Player standing outside NovaCare Complex hoping for shot with Eagles

Player standing outside NovaCare Complex hoping for shot with Eagles

Twenty-four-year-old Troy Beckett found a scrap piece of cardboard in his Willingboro, N.J. home, took a marker to it, and headed across the bridge. 

The former Willingboro High School and Bemidji State defensive back arrived to the NovaCare Complex at around 7:30 on Monday morning with a sign that reads: “Not homeless … But starving for that shot!!!” 

Beckett hopes he’ll get the Eagles’ attention and the team will offer to work him out. 

“I’m nothing special,” Beckett said. “I’m not a big story. I’m just trying to make a living playing the game that I love. I’ve been playing it since I was 5 years old.”

In 2009, Beckett graduated from Willingboro High School, where he played wide receiver and defensive back for the Chimeras. He went to little-known Division II Bemidji State in Minnesota to play football, but has been out of school for two years. 

He said he’s worked out for a few arena teams, including the Philadelphia Soul about a year ago. Nothing came from that workout. 

Beckett’s idea to stand outside the NovaCare Complex wasn’t his own. He said Joe Anderson, a wide receiver who stood outside of Houston’s NRG Stadium with a similar sign last year, inspired him. Anderson was actually signed to the Jets’ practice squad six weeks later. 

Beckett said he had a conversation with a friend last week, when the friend asked him why he never got a shot. So Beckett decided to head over the bridge on Monday. 

For now, Beckett has a job loading trucks. 

“I’m just looking for an opportunity to show this organization what I can do,” Beckett said. “I never got the big shot coming out of college, coming out of high school at the big name school or whatever.”

Beckett said it’s been tough to try to keep his dream alive. 

“It really is, man. It really is,” he said. “I’m 24 years old. I’ve been out of school now for about two years. I’m just looking for a fair shot. I’d be OK with myself if they said no. As long as they give me the chance to workout and showcase my talent, I’ll be OK.”

As of around 9:30 a.m. on Monday – two hours in – Beckett said he hadn’t yet talked to anyone from the organization. 

With temperatures expected to peak in the 90s on Monday, just how long does Beckett plan to stand by the NovaCare gate? 

“As long as it takes,” he said. “Until the parking lot is empty.”

And if nothing happens on Monday? 

“I’ll be out here tomorrow,” he answered. “I’ll be out here every day.” 

Dave Zangaro predicts Eagles' 53-man roster 3.0

Dave Zangaro predicts Eagles' 53-man roster 3.0

The Eagles are down to one final preseason game before they’ll have to figure out their final 53-man roster. 

But no need to wait, I have it right here. Or at least what I think it will look like after watching all of OTAs, training camp and the most important preseason games. The team made it a little easier with several key cuts on Sunday (see story)

Let’s jump right in: 

Quarterback (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz 
With apologies to the law firm of McLeod Bethel-Thompson, this was pretty easy. 

Running back (4): Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
I toyed with the idea of taking Smallwood off the roster. I thought perhaps the team will try to stash him on IR — that quad could always act up again — and instead take Byron Marshall on the 53. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. For now, the team will have to hope Mathews and Barner can carry the load while Smallwood gets caught up. 

Wide receiver (5): Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner
I’m taking only five because the unit hasn’t been very strong. The team’s decision to cut Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday wasn’t very surprising to me. They were on prove-it deals and had only proven what the Eagles probably feared. Instead, the rookie Turner is on the roster, which is an important message for the team: Effort matters. Still, expect the Eagles to keep a watchful eye on the waiver wire here.  

Tight end (4): Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Chris Pantale
Pantale isn’t nearly as good a tight end as the other three, but Doug Pederson seems determined to have him on the roster as a fullback and special teamer. Four tight ends and four running backs is tough to swallow in terms of roster spots available, but I think that’s the way it’s going. Look for Burton to have an increased role in the offense this year too. 

Offensive line (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski, Matt Tobin, Halapoulavaati Vaitai, Josh Andrews
I left Lane Johnson off this list because he’ll probably be suspended by the season opener and won’t count against the 53-man roster. Wisniewski will be the backup at all three interior line positions. After cutting Andrew Gardner on Sunday, the Eagles will keep Tobin and Andrews as reserve linemen. Andrews played guard on Saturday — likely a chance for him to prove he’s not just a center. Keep an eye on tight end-turned-tackle Dillon Gordon too. He has an outside chance to make the roster and a very good shot to stick on the practice squad; very athletic and versatile player. 

Defensive end (6): Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Steven Means, Marcus Smith, Bryan Braman
Six defensive ends is a lot, but at this point, Braman isn’t really a defensive end. He’s just a special teams ace. And with the rotation at DE, I think it’s more important to have ends than it is to have extra players in the secondary. If the team is able to trade either Means or Smith, then this number could be down to five. 

Defensive tackle (4): Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart
During training camp, Jim Schwartz said to not count out Allen and Hart just because they didn’t seem to be scheme fits. Both have proven him right this preseason. Sure, undrafted rookies Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu have looked good, but they won’t be able to contribute as much this season as the veterans. At least one of those rookies should hold down a practice squad spot. Mike Martin was the third defensive tackle for a long time but was released on Sunday, after a few weeks of a knee injury. 

Linebacker (6): Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Stephen Tulloch, Najee Goode, Quintin Gause
Tulloch will be the primary backup at the MIKE, while Goode and Gause, the undrafted rookie from Rutgers, get the nods at the backup outside 'backer positions for now. But expect the Eagles to take a good look at the waiver wire for linebackers. 

Cornerback (5): Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills, Eric Rowe
If the Eagles keep five, I think these will be the five. Rookie C.J. Smith has been impressive but could use a year on the practice squad. I thought Denzel Rice, thanks to his special teams contributions, had an outside shot, but he was cut on Sunday. 

Safety (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Jaylen Watkins
A little light at safety, but Mills or Rowe could probably move back there if needed. Really, Jenkins and McLeod aren’t going to come off the field much as long as they’re healthy; there won’t be a rotation. If five safeties were to make the team, sixth-rounder Blake Countess would be the next one up. I think Ed Reynolds is a longer shot at this point.  

Specialists (3): Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos, Caleb Sturgis
After an impressive training camp, Sturgis takes down Cody Parkey for the kicker job. 

Practice squad: DT Destiney Vaeao, CB C.J. Smith, G Dillon Gordon, WR David Watford, WR Marcus Johnson, G Darrell Greene, LB Myke Tavarres, S Blake Countess, CB Aaron Grymes, RB Byron Marshall

Tales of Carlos Ruiz’s generosity still coming out of Phillies' clubhouse

Tales of Carlos Ruiz’s generosity still coming out of Phillies' clubhouse

NEW YORK — A.J. Ellis started (and starred in) his first game for the Phillies on Sunday afternoon (see game recap).
 
Carlos Ruiz has already been in the Dodgers’ lineup.
 
Initial reactions to the swap of backup catchers on Thursday has subsided, but there are still anecdotes worth sharing as it pertains to Ruiz’s impact in the Phillies’ clubhouse.
 
Here are a couple, compliments of Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.
 
According to Franco, Ruiz viewed it as his responsibility to help young Latin players learn the ropes in the big leagues.
 
When Franco, a native of the Dominican Republic, came to the big leagues for the first time two years ago, Ruiz, from Panama, immediately reached out to him. Franco was just 22. Ruiz was 35 and had eight major-league seasons on his résumé and a World Series ring on his finger.
 
The Phillies were on a road trip and Ruiz told Franco to meet him in the hotel lobby one morning. They got in a cab and ended up at a stylish mall where Ruiz proceeded to purchase Franco some road attire — a suit, some nice shirts and a couple of ties.
 
“It was a beautiful thing he did for me,” Franco said. “Chooch was so good to me. I will never forget that day.
 
“The day he got traded, I called him. He had trouble talking because he was emotional. He almost cried. That boy is different. He’s special.
 
“I still have the suit. It is even more special now.”
 
Galvis also felt the warmth of Ruiz’s generosity.
 
He unexpectedly made the big club out of spring training in 2012 as a fill-in for injured Chase Utley.
 
There’s a lot of learning in your first season in the majors. Ruiz became Galvis’ tour guide.
 
“Every time we went to a new ballpark, he made sure to go with me on the first day so I would know where the entrance was, how to get to the clubhouse, things like that,” Galvis said. “He was always looking out for you.”
 
When Galvis broke camp with the club, he told Galvis, ‘You’re in the major leagues, you have to look good.’
 
“He took me out and bought me four suits, eight shirts and eight ties,” Galvis said with wide eyes.
 
That’s better than Franco did.
 
“Well, I was the only young guy on the team at that time,” Galvis said. “Chooch was good to me. That’s why I was sad to see him go, but also happy because he has a chance to win another World Series.”
 
Galvis, from Venezuela, and Ruiz were like brothers. At the all-star break in 2015, Galvis traveled to Panama with Ruiz for a few days of R&R.
 
In January, Galvis is planning to travel back to Panama. Ruiz and his wife are expecting a child.
 
“I am going to be the godfather,” Galvis said proudly.