Just a few weeks ago, we were quoting Eagles defensive position coaches about how, yeah, it was a shame their players weren't generating enough turnovers, but you can't really force that stuff, turnovers tend to come randomly, in bunches, you don't want guys gambling out there, and if everybody just does what they're supposed to do, it will all work out.
Now, with the Eagles at 4-5, heading into a matchup Sunday in New Orleans against an 8-1 team that seems superior on paper in just about every crucial area, it just might be time to force that stuff. Gamble a little. Hard to see another path to victory, for a team whose seven paltry takeaways rank 30th in the NFL. Only Tampa Bay (six) and San Francisco (five) have given their offenses the ball off a turnover fewer times than the Eagles.
"That's our big thing in our room as DBs. … This week we've been working on punching the ball out, trying to get as many interceptions as we can," said Avonte Maddox, who seems likely to play nickel corner this week, with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas outside in place of injured starters Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. "You just work on it. When that ball's in the area, you gotta attack it, go grab it."
Douglas endured a horrible night last Sunday against Dallas, but he has one of the Eagles' four interceptions this season, and he was known as a ballhawk in college at West Virginia – eight interceptions in 2016.
"Just gotta find the ball, be in position to get one," Douglas said.
The Eagles were rarely in position to get a Dak Prescott interception against Dallas. Their only good shot – which could have been a pick-six – was flubbed because linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is wearing a club-like cast on an injured hand/wrist and has to try to catch one-handed.
"This has to be our most perfect game," Jones said. "Honestly, any way to find a turnover – punch the ball, strip the ball, intercept the ball. Just always competing out there, every second."
The Saints have just eight giveaways — one interception and seven lost fumbles.
Mr. Rodgers rejoins the neighborhood
Eagles tight end Richard Rodgers last wore a game uniform three months ago, back on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 16, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Rodgers caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld, his first touchdown, albeit in the preseason, with the new team he signed to play for in April, after four years with the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers went to the bench and didn't set foot on the field with his teammates again, until this week, when the Eagles used one of their two designations for return from injured reserve on Rodgers, who was officially added to the roster Friday, when Joshua Perkins (knee) went on IR. Rodgers, recovered from the knee injury he suffered that night in Foxborough, should play Sunday at New Orleans.
"It was going well," Rodgers said Friday, thinking back to training camp and the preseason. "It was just an unfortunate situation … Someone landed on my leg when I fell and caught that touchdown in New England. Happened to be a freak accident. Partially tore my PCL. Just glad I didn't have to get surgery, really. I've missed one game in my career, which was the last game of last year."
Did he know he was seriously hurt at the time?
"Not at all. I got up and I celebrated and I got back to the bench pretty fine. Then my knee kind of tightened up. Had to get carted off and get an MRI."
Coming back from injured reserve is jarring. Everybody else is into the rhythm of the season, you're trying to get back to where you were in training camp.
>> READ MORE: Our beat writers predict the score on Sunday
"Coming back from 'short IR' sucks," Chris Long said this week. Long had that experience in 2014 with the Rams, returning Nov. 30 after suffering an ankle injury in the season opener. "I don't want to speak for Rodgers, but I wasn't ready."
Asked about that, Rodgers said: "I feel good in practice. It's going to be an adjustment period, obviously. I haven't put the pads on in a while. I'm just excited to come back and get into pads again."
Has it been a frustrating season, waiting to get going?
"It's not really frustration. Football … the injury rate is 100 percent," Rodgers said. "I guess it was just my turn to get hurt."
As of Friday evening, the Eagles had not made a roster move to get defensive tackle Tim Jernigan on the 53 so he could play Sunday.
"Still optimistic," coach Doug Pederson said Friday morning. "We have to get through [Friday and Saturday] obviously with him and see where he's at. … It's kind of day-by-day."
Pederson indicated new wide receiver Golden Tate should have a bigger role this week than he had against the Cowboys, when Tate's Eagles debut amounted to two catches for 19 yards.
Right tackle Lane Johnson was listed as a limited practice participant, but Pederson said he is likely to play, three weeks after suffering an MCL sprain in the London game. Pederson said Johnson "had a really good week of practice" and "feels a lot better."