Eagles spent a month trying to upgrade this one area, and it's paying off


This time last year, the Eagles had two takeaways on their way to 16 all year – including the postseason. 

Only four teams had fewer, and incredibly six of those takeaways came in two games – against the Panthers and Saints. That means in their 16 other games, the Eagles forced 10 turnovers.

Sixteen takeaways in 18 games.

That was the second-fewest in franchise history – for any length season – and the Eagles became only the fourth team in NFL history to reach the playoffs despite 16 or fewer takeaways.

The coaches preached takeaways. They emphasized takeaways. They drilled takeaways.

They just didn’t get any takeaways.

Something had to change.

And it did.

“We took a good hard look this off-season as a staff with how we were coaching things, how we were drilling things, how our language was with that, and the head coach made us change some things,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.

“You know, at first, change might be a little uncomfortable, but we said, ‘Look, we do have to change some of these things,’ and it starts with me. ‘How are we coaching this? What is the language? Do the players understand? Are we drilling it the correct way?’”

The lack of takeaways last year was nothing new for the Eagles.

After forcing 35 turnovers during the Super Bowl season in 2017, the Eagles forced just 18, 20, 19 and 16 turnovers in each of the next four years.

That made them one of only six teams in NFL history to force 20 or fewer turnovers in four straight seasons.

Sirianni’s message to Gannon: Fix it.

“We studied it hardcore,” Gannon said. “Anytime you want to improve on something, like we've talked about, ‘Hey, these are the two things we really want to improve on.’ You've got to take a deep dive and study it. 

“There's a lot of time on task. It's not like you watch for one day, eight hours and say, ‘OK, here's what it is.’ It took a month with everybody in that room. 

“We went through it. You start studying different people. You start talking to different people, how you drill certain things. I'm a big guy on language. You have to define things clearly for the players to understand, and then the why behind it.”

The turnover project was one of the coaching staff’s major initiatives this offseason. And the change has been impossible to ignore.

Four games into the 2022 season, the Eagles and Ravens are tied for most takeaways in the league with 10 – only six fewer than the Eagles had in 18 games last year.

Gannon didn’t get into specifics, but two things are clear: 

There’s always been an emphasis on smacking the ball away from ball carriers or quarterbacks, but now the Eagles’ defenders are only taking those shots when there are numbers to the ball and if the strip doesn’t work you don’t end up giving up a big play. Thanks in large part to the Jaguars, the Eagles have already forced more fumbles this year than all of last year.

But the biggest difference in this defense is the personnel. James Bradberry and Haason Reddick were the defensive centerpieces of Howie Roseman’s offseason, and they’ve combined for five of the Eagles’ 10 takeaways so far.

“What you want to do is get as many guys as you can that have a knack for taking the ball away and then drill it and teach it better and hopefully it comes to fruition, which it has,” Gannon said.

“I think the coaches have done a really good job with that as far as how we're teaching that and drilling it, and then we always keep it on their mind, and our guys know that's a winning stat, so that's an important part of the game that we have to continue to excel at, and we can get better at it. 

“There's a lot of plays out there that we show our guys, ‘Hey guys, look, there it is, right there. This is what we talk about it. It has to be on your mind.’ The ball has to be on your mind if you want to take it away.

“I think the players ultimately have done a good job of taking the drill work to practice to the game, and it's on their minds. I think it's an improvement by us as a staff, and it's an improvement with the players.”

Contact Us