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Turnovers a big reason for the Eagles’ sluggish start | Early Birds

Through three games, the Eagles have a minus-7 turnover ratio.

Bengals cornerback LeShaun Sims intercepts the football past Eagles tight end Zach Ertz during the third quarter.
Bengals cornerback LeShaun Sims intercepts the football past Eagles tight end Zach Ertz during the third quarter.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Good morning and welcome to another week in which the Eagles will have to pull themselves off the mat, after Sunday’s 23-23 tie with the visiting Cincinnati Bengals that sure felt like a loss. Remember when the first three games of the season were the ones the Eagles were supposed to use to get off to a quick start? So much for that.

The next three weeks, the Eagles will play at San Francisco, visit Pittsburgh and host Baltimore. Yikes.

It won’t matter whom the Eagles are facing if they don’t improve their turnover ratio.

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Tumbling with turnovers

There are many reasons for the Eagles’ 0-2-1 start, but a minus-7 turnover differential is a major one. The biggest culprit is Carson Wentz, who has thrown six interceptions and lost one fumble in the three games.

To put that in perspective, Wentz threw seven interceptions in 16 games and 607 passes last year. He threw seven interceptions in 2018, in 11 games and 401 passes. In 2017, he again threw just seven interceptions, in 13 games and 440 throws. The six interceptions this season have come in just 132 passes.

Wentz has thrown two interceptions in each of the first three games. To put that in perspective, he threw two or more interceptions in a game three times in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.

So that is a problem, but so is causing turnovers. The Eagles defense has yet to record a turnover. The only turnover by an opponent came on special teams when the Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp fumbled a punt.

So even though the Eagles had eight sacks against Cincinnati, the defense is concerned about that lack of opponents' turnovers.

“We have to do better with that," said defensive end Brandon Graham, who had two sacks against the Bengals. “We were talking about it out there on 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.”

Safety Jalen Mills said causing turnovers could have been the difference between winning and tying.

“So us getting maybe one more play, getting a strip sack, getting an interception, whatever it may be," Mills said. "Getting a fumble. I feel that we could have gotten one more play in. It could have made the difference.”

As mentioned last week, the only thing saving the Eagles is playing in a weak NFC East. The four NFC East teams combined have fewer wins than the Tennessee Titans.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. In Jeff McLane’s Up-Down Drill, not surprisingly, coach Doug Pederson and Wentz didn’t receive Up grades.

  2. David Murphy writes that Pederson’s overtime decision was irrelevant because the Eagles simply are not good.

  3. McLane writes that Pederson’s punting on the season shouldn’t overshadow the Eagles' bigger offensive problems. The offense is in decline, he writes.

  4. Marcus Hayes examines Carson Wentz’s play, and the conclusions aren’t very positive.

  5. Pederson explained his decision to punt late in overtime. He seems like it’s a decision he will be reviewing in his mind.

  6. Paul Domowitch gives his grades for the game. Hint: It wasn’t a good day for the special teams and the passing offense.

  7. Domowitch writes that losing tight end Dallas Goedert with an ankle injury during the Eagles’ second possession hurt both the run and passing games.

  8. EJ Smith detailed all the key happenings of the game as they happened. Included were videos of many top plays.

  9. In the social media reaction to the game, it felt like a loss from an Eagles perspective. There is even a tweet that came in from Bosnia.

  10. Les Bowen has Eagles notes, leading off with backup QB Jalen Hurts, who had two carries for eight yards but has yet to throw a pass.

  11. After an encouraging performance in the Week 2 loss to the Rams, the Eagles offensive line had another rough day, Smith writes.

  12. Murphy provides his observations from the game. One of those was on left tackle Jason Peters, who had a rough day.

  13. Ed Barkowitz has his observations of Week 3 in the NFL. One person he spotlights is Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Justin Jefferson, who had a big game. Jefferson was available in the first round when the Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor.

  14. Here are some photos of the game from The Inquirer photography department.

From the mailbag

Question: Why does Carson Wentz make so much money this year so far has not impressed me? — Timothy Sachs from Facebook

Answer: Thanks for the question, Tim. For those who don’t know, in June 2019, Wentz agreed to a four-year, $128 million extension that will run through the 2024 season. Believe it or not, that isn’t an outlandish deal for a quarterback, especially for one who will be 28 in December and should be in his prime.

Now, in his first three games, he hasn’t been playing like a franchise QB. His passer rating is 63.9. In the previous three seasons, his passer rating in 40 games was 98.3. That type of rating gets somebody a big contract.

The Eagles think (hope?) Wentz is just in a terrible slump and he will come out of it. He is capable of carrying a team, as we saw in the final four games of last year’s regular season when the Eagles needed all four to clinch the division title. He threw seven touchdowns, with no interceptions, and had a 100.8 passer rating.

That is the Wentz the Eagles believe they have. He hasn’t shown it yet, and until he does, there will be doubts, but at the time, signing him to the extension made a lot of sense.