Turnovers, Kolb and the Eagles' D

Sean McDermott's defense produced 38 turnovers in 2009. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)

Ten teams had a turnover differential of +6 or better in 2009.

Seven of those teams made the playoffs. Four teams had a turnover differential of +10 or better. All four made the postseason.

And the Eagles were one of those teams. The Birds' +15 turnover differential trailed only the Packers (+24). The Eagles were fourth in the league with 25 interceptions and third with 38 takeaways.

Offensively, the Birds turned it over 23 times, tied for seventh-fewest in the league.

Here's a chart of the Eagles' giveaway/takeaway numbers, along with league rank, over the past five seasons. Note that giveaway rank is in terms of fewest turnovers.

  Takeaways Rank Giveaways Rank Diff. Rank
2009 38 3rd 23 T-7th +15 2nd
2008 29 T-9th 26 T-16th +3 14th
2007 19 32nd 27 T-13th -8 25th
2006 28 T-12th 23 T-9th +5 T-9th
2005 26 T-15th 28 T-21st -2 18th
Avg. 28   25.4      

What do the numbers say? That the Eagles had a historically impressive year in terms of giveaways/takeaways in 2009.

Consider this: I had to go back 20 years to the 1989 season to find a year when the Eagles had a turnover differential better than +15. That year, the Eagles' defense produced a ridiculous 56 turnovers for a differential of +24.

Only three times in the past 20 years did the Eagles' defense create more turnovers than 2009. In 1999, Andy Reid's first season with the Eagles (which resulted in a 5-11 record), the Birds created 46 turnovers for a +7 differential. In 1991, the defense created 48 turnovers for a +5 differential.

And in 1995 and 2002, the Eagles' defense tied last year's mark of 38 takeaways.

Offensively, it's logical to predict the Eagles will have more turnovers in 2010. The question is: How many more? Donovan McNabb had a historically low interception percentage during his career here, throwing just one pick every 47.46 passes.

Kevin Kolb is entering his first season as a starter and will endure some growing pains. It's unfair to suggest any trends based on his limited game action, but if you want the numbers, Kolb's thrown seven interceptions in 130 attempts, or one pick every 18.57 attempts.

The 2010 Football Outsiders Almanac predicts 14 interceptions for Kolb, a number higher than McNabb produced in any of his 11 seasons, but one that the Eagles could certainly live with.

As a point of reference, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw 13 picks in his first full season as a starter. Last year, he cut that number down to just seven.

In terms of fumbles, that's a part of Kolb's game we don't know too much about. Will he show good awareness when pressured in the pocket? Will he have a good sense of when to protect the football? Will he be willing to take a sack, or will he always try to escape and make a play? We'll get some answers this year, but those are areas that are likely to improve as a quarterback matures and gains more experience.

In the running game, I've never been crazy with the way LeSean McCoy carries the football. Those who joined me in the chats last year know I always thought he was in danger of being stripped by opposing defenders. McCoy fumbled twice as a rookie, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him focus on holding the ball differently at training camp.

Speaking of which, rookies and selected veterans report to Lehigh a week from today. And the first practice is a week from tomorrow.

It's about that time, my friends.

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