Why Sirianni thinks turnover differential is sustainable


There are plenty of reasons the Eagles have an 8-0 record to start their season but none has been more important than turnover margin.

Through eight games, the Eagles lead the NFL in takeaways with 18 and lead the league in giveaways with just three. They have the NFL’s best turnover differential (by a wide margin) at +15.

Is this sustainable? Head coach Nick Sirianni thinks so.

“I think sometimes there's a tendency for people to think, ‘Oh, they're getting lucky in the turnover category.’ To me, luck has nothing to do with it,” Sirianni said.

“We talk about it more than anybody. We live it. We preach it. We rep it. There are fundamentals to it. Our coaches are all over it. Our players are all over it. It's constantly on our mind. Nobody thinks about turning the ball over or protecting the football more than we do.”

The gap between the Eagles’ turnover margin and the rest of the league is shocking and it’s one of the reasons many think it might not be sustainable, at least not at this rate. The difference between the Eagles and No. 2 in the league in turnover margin is the same as the difference between No. 2 and No. 22 on the list.

Eagles: +15
Cowboys: +6
Vikings: +6
Ravens: +6
Four teams: +3

On defense, the Eagles’ 18 takeaways are the most they’ve had through the first eight games of a season since 2015 and this is just the fourth time they’ve had this many in the last 20 years.

The Eagles lead the NFL with 12 interceptions, led by C.J. Gardner-Johnson (5), Darius Slay (3) and James Bradberry (3).

“I think our front seven has been playing really well and some of it is just good luck,” Bradberry said. “We’ve had some overthrows some tipped balls. You definitely gotta catch those because those are free throws. We’ve been playing situational football and just executing at a high level.”

Of course, the whole unit is working together to get these turnovers. The pass rush is forcing quarterbacks into bad or early throws and the back end is doing its job by picking passes off. Or the secondary is holding coverage long enough for the front to get to the quarterback and strip the ball. Haason Reddick leads the team with three forced fumbles. It helps that the Eagles have played some inexperienced quarterbacks but they’re playing who’s on their schedule.

Sirianni pointed out that the Eagles simply have a lot of playmakers on that side of the ball.

“We got a great group here,” Reddick said. “When you look at it, our back 7, they find a way to get to the ball. Our D-line, we’ve been causing a lot of pressure and forcing the QB to make some throws that they shouldn’t even be making. But every time they do, it’s a tip, it’s a guy in the QB’s face. You got a guy like Chauncey, Slay, Bradberry, they somehow always find their way to be next to the ball. It’s magical, man. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

On offense, Jalen Hurts has thrown just two interceptions. He had a fourth-quarter pass to Kenny Gainwell picked off against the Vikings, but Sirianni later took blame for that one, saying he shouldn’t have had the wonky play in the game plan. And the ball did bounce off Gainwell’s hands. So this one really wasn’t on Hurts.

The other INT was on Hurts. The worst throw of Hurts’ season came early in the Jaguars game when he threw a pick-six to Andre Cisco.

But it’s very impressive that Hurts has thrown just two picks in 239 attempts this season. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts, Hurts has the second-lowest interception rate in the NFL (0.8), behind just Tom Brady, who has thrown 1 interception in 398 attempts. On Thursday night, Hurts finally lost the first fumble of the season for the Eagles, bringing his grand total to three giveaways this year.

So not only is Hurts protecting the football in 2022, but his teammates haven’t given up any fumbles.

Sometimes those things go unnoticed but not by Sirianni. He gave credit to the Texans for swiping at the ball on Thursday night but was impressed by the way his team held up.

“Multiple times in that game where their guys had really good strip attempts, outstanding strip attempts on defense that would have been on our defensive highlights of this is a great strip attempt, keep coming after it because it's going to come out,” Sirianni said. “And our guys protecting the crap out of it. It was Quez Watkins on his play, they really tried to come after that ball on him. Jack Stoll on his play. Dallas Goedert had a couple where he really protected that ball in some traffic. Then Miles Sanders and Kenny (Gainwell) and Boston (Scott), all of them. Miles continues to impress. There was one play going down into the red zone where the guy, I think No. 2, got his hand on it, and really raked at it pretty good, and Miles held on to the football.”

Sirianni said the Eagles’ goal is to be +2 in turnover margin after each game. They want to take away the ball at least twice and they don’t want to cough it up at all. They’ve been +2 or better in half their games this season:

Week 1: 38-35 win at Detroit (+1)
Week 2: 27-7 win vs. Vikings (+2)
Week 3: 24-8 win at Commanders (+1)
Week 4: 29-21 win vs. Jaguars (+4)
Week 5: 20-17 win at Cardinals (+1)
Week 6: 26-17 win vs. Cowboys (+3)
Week 8: 35-13 win vs. Steelers (+2)
Week 9: 29-17 win at Texans (+1)

The Eagles are just one of five teams in the last 20 years to have a turnover margin of at least +15 through eight games. The worst record among those five teams was 6-2. Three of the four before this season made the playoffs but all three were bounced in their first game in the postseason.

Sometimes turnover margin can mask other problems a team has and it is hard to rely on it. But if Sirianni is right and this is sustainable, the Eagles can go a long way.

“I think it's sustainable because it's part of our culture and what we live and preach every single day,” Sirianni said. “Again, the coaches are doing a good job of teaching the fundamentals of how to take the ball away, how to finish with the ball, and our offensive coaches are doing a great job of teaching the fundamentals of how to protect the football.”

Subscribe to the Eagle Eye podcast

Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube

Contact Us