Paul Domowitch: Poor field position is what's most wrong with Eagles

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Only two of the Eagles' 12 touchdown drives have covered fewer than 66 yards. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

EVERYBODY HAS an opinion about what's wrong with the Eagles.

It's the quarterback. He's a damn turnover machine and can't read a defense to save his life.

Nah, it's the offensive line. Those guys couldn't block my grandmother.

Wrong. It's the pitiful playcalling. They gotta give the freaking ball to McCoy more.

Poll

What is Nick Foles’ strongest suit?

Nope. Everybody knows it's the head coach. We're not gonna win again until he's outta town.

You certainly can make a case for all of those. The quarterback has 13 turnovers in seven games and is 25th in the league in passing and completion percentage.

The offensive line has struggled without Jason Peters and Jason Kelce.

LeSean McCoy, one of the league's three or four best running backs, has had more than 16 carries only once in the last five games.

And Andy Reid is so discombobulated, he can't even figure out how to keep a timeout in his pocket for a half-ending field goal.

The biggest reason the Eagles are 3-4, though, rather than 4-3 or 5-2 or even 6-1, isn't any of those things.

The biggest reason they're 3-4 is field position. That's right. Field position.

Thanks to a defense that can't manufacture turnovers and inept special teams that rank near the bottom of the league in kickoff and punt returns, the Eagles' average starting line of scrimmage this season has been their 24.9-yard line.

Only one team in the league has poorer starting field position. That would be the 1-6 Carolina Panthers (23.9).

The last thing a turnover-prone offense like the Eagles needs is a long field to deal with. Particularly when opposing defenses are intent on taking away the deep ball and making them put together double-digit-play drives to score.

The Eagles have scored only 12 touchdowns in the first seven games. Only two of those drives have covered less than 66 yards. Only four of their 24 scoring drives have been less than 50 yards.

They've started at their own 40-yard line or better only eight times in 83 possessions, and only three times in their last 53 possessions. They haven't started a drive on the other side of the 50 since their Week 2 win over the Ravens. Oh, did I mention they're 1-4 since then?

Currently, six teams in the NFC have winning records - the Falcons (7-0), Bears (6-1), Giants (6-2), 49ers (6-2), Packers (5-3) and Vikings (5-3). Five of those six teams are ranked in the top 10 in average starting field position - the Giants (32.3), Falcons (30.6), Bears (30.1), Packers (29.4) and 49ers (29.2).

The Giants, whose 24 takeaways are the most in the league, have started 20 of 79 possessions at their 40-yard line or better. The Bears, who are second in takeaways with 23, have started 24 of 78 possessions at the 40 or better. The Falcons, who are tied for third in takeaways with 17, have started 19 of 77 drives at the 40 or better.

The Packers have only 10 takeaways, but are seventh in the league in kickoff-return average (27.4) and 11th in punt-return average (9.7), and have started 21 of 93 possessions at the 40 or better. The Vikings, who are second in kickoff returns (30.6) and eighth in punt returns (11.9), have started 14 of 92 drives at the 40 of better.

The Eagles are 29th in the league in takeaways, with eight. They are 26th in kickoff return average (20.2) and 30th in punt return average (5.6). Which means almost every possession has been a cross-country journey for an offense that isn't built for cross-country journeys.

Vick has averaged a turnover every 25.7 runs, passes or sacks this season.

The defense forced six turnovers in the Eagles' season-opening, back-to-back wins over the Browns and Ravens, then forgot how to do it.

They've had only two takeaways in the last five games, both interceptions.

The Eagles have forced nine fumbles, but have recovered only one. That was against the Ravens in Week 2. Fumbles often come with quarterback sacks, but the Eagles aren't getting many of those, either. They have only eight after leading the league with 50 sacks last year.

If the Eagles had a respectable return game, the lack of turnovers wouldn't be as big a deal. But they don't. Rookie kickoff returner Brandon Boykin is averaging only 22.1 yards per return and doesn't have one longer than 31 yards.

Punt returners Damaris Johnson, Mardy Gilyard and DeSean Jackson have only three returns longer than 6 yards and none more than 13.

"We just have not done a good enough job fundamentally at teaching guys that, when the bell rings and you come out of your corner and the other guy comes out of his, you've got to whoop him," special-teams coordinator Bobby April said.

"No matter how you draw the lines, eventually they're going to intersect, and we've got to dominate that line. We misjudged some of the fundamental stuff we did. We weren't as fundamentally sound as we should have been going into the season, and we're trying with every effort to recapture our ability to whoop the guy one-on-one through technique and fundamentals."

You might want to start whooping guys pretty quickly, because the Eagles aren't going to win many games if the offense has to continually drive 85 yards for a score.

 


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pdomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.