Paul Domowitch: Turnover at QB position has helped fuel Eagles' turnover troubles

Panthers' Thomas Davis recovers Bryce Brown's fumble during Eagles' game in November, part of an alarming trend in 2012.YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Panthers' Thomas Davis recovers Bryce Brown's fumble during Eagles' game in November, part of an alarming trend in 2012.YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Posted: December 30, 2012

Nobody is interested in hearing that the main reason the Eagles missed the playoffs the last two seasons is turnovers.

From a fan's standpoint, turnovers don't cut it as a satisfying excuse for ineptitude. They're right down there with injuries and the dog ate my homework.

You can't fire turnovers. You can't second-guess them. You can't boo a turnover for missing a block or blowing a coverage or short-arming a pass or getting called for holding in the red zone.

You can't criticize a turnover for poor clock management or make fun of it when it says it didn't put its players in better position to make plays.

When a coach mentions turnovers, our eyes glaze over the same way they do when the wife mentions taking out the trash or painting the shed.

On Thursday, you could see a roomful of media members collectively tune out offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when he brought up the subject for the umpteenth time.

"The biggest thing is the turnovers," Mornhinweg said when analyzing his unit's problems this season. "We've talked about that from week to week. We just have to hold on to the ball. The biggest statistic that correlates to winning and losing is the turnover ratio."

He is absolutely right. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Eagles have turned the ball over an astounding 74 times in 31 games. If you don't think it's the primary reason they've lost 19 of those 31 games, you need to start watching golf, bowling or baseball.

Last year, their 38 giveaways were the second most in the league. Only Tampa Bay, with 40, had more.

This year, their 36 giveaways heading into Sunday's final game against the Giants again are the second most in the league. Only 2-13 Kansas City, with 37, has more.

Even more disconcerting, and even more pertinent as it relates to the Eagles' dreadful 4-11 record, is the fact that they've allowed opponents to convert those 36 turnovers into a league-high 129 points.

That's 32.1 percent of the total points the Eagles have given up this season.

Only four other teams have given up more than 100 points off turnovers this season - the Bills (126), Chiefs (123), Steelers (110) and Bucs (104). None has a winning record.

Of the 14 teams that have allowed 80 or more points off giveaways, only two have winning records - the 8-7 Cowboys (92) and the 9-6 Bengals (86).

Until last year, the Eagles did not turn the ball over much under Andy Reid. It was a point of pride. From 2001 through 2010, they had more than 27 turnovers in a season only once (34 in '05, when they finished 6-10).

You don't have to be Dick Tracy to figure out what changed that.

A new quarterback.

After the '09 season, the Eagles traded away Donovan McNabb, who may have had his faults, but turning the ball over wasn't one of them. He owns the fourth-best interception percentage in league history.

He ultimately was replaced by Michael Vick, a gunslinger who isn't nearly as good at protecting the football as McNabb was. Vick has 41 turnovers in his last 31 starts and has only four turnover-free games in his last 30 starts.

Back when the Eagles were really, really good, they not only didn't turn the ball over much, they didn't allow opponents to score when they did turn it over.

When the Eagles went to the NFC Championship Game 4 years straight from 2001 to'04, they never had more than 24 turnovers in a season and never gave up more than 54 points off turnovers. They finished in the top three in points allowed off turnovers in three of those four seasons.

This season, the Eagles have allowed 15 touchdowns and eight field goals off their 36 turnovers, including four fumble returns and three interceptions returns for touchdowns.

Of the other eight touchdowns they've given up off turnovers, only two of the drives were longer than 44 yards.

Not only a football player

You probably don't know Ronnie Cameron, but you need to.

Cameron is a 6-2, 295-pound defensive tackle on the Eagles' practice squad. But that's only his day job, and not the reason you need to know him and know about him.

Cameron, 23, who has an MBA in information technology, designed and runs a website called bonfireimpact.com.

Simply put, bonfireimpact.com is about helping people. It's a website with stories and information on charities, foundations, philanthropy, education advocacy, et al.

The top stories on the site Friday dealt with improving literacy, the most overlooked education stories of 2012, a reproductive health bill in the Philippines to improve women's lives, and a 9-year-old girl with brain cancer who has raised $240,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I've always been big on helping people," Cameron said. "I come from humble beginnings. My mother is from Haiti and my dad is from Trinidad. I have family back in Haiti who are still struggling.

"In college, I spent a lot of time going to schools and talking to kids. I'm big on education advocacy."

Cameron is a writer, and not only on his website. He blogs on politics and education advocacy for the Huffington Post.

"I talk a lot about some of this stuff in my blogs, but wanted to create my own site just to help people and hopefully get younger people excited about social activism and doing things to help others. There's a lot of people hurting out there. A lot of people doing good things. People just don't know about it."

Cameron said there really wasn't one place you could go for information on different types of charities and philanthropic organizations. That's why he created bonfireimpact.com.

"Every organization I've contacted has been all in," he said. "We've partnered with Oxfam America. We've partnered with Waterkeeper Alliance. A broad array of organizations, and everyone's been all for it, because there's nothing else like it out there. There's not one place you can go to get information on a bunch of different causes."

Cameron also uses the site to promote the charities, foundations and good deeds of athletes.

"When an athlete does something bad, it's in the news for weeks," he said. "When he does something good, it's in the news for 20 seconds. We're trying to help athletes who do good things on a regular basis get the attention they deserve."

Cameron's website is collaborating on a Super Bowl week campaign with women's organizations on domestic violence and human trafficking.

If you don't know Ronnie, you need to. The first step is visiting his website.

Cornerback decisions

The Eagles have important decisions to make this offseason on cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Rodgers-Cromartie will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Asomugha is scheduled to make $15 million next season.

Should they try to re-sign Rodgers-Cromartie? Should they keep the 31-year-old Asomugha?

A lot will depend on their evaluations of the team's rookie nickel corner, Brandon Boykin, and 2011 third-round pick Curtis Marsh.

If they let DRC and/or Asomugha go, they need to find replacements. Could the 5-9 Boykin move outside? Do they still believe Marsh, who has played only 45 defensive snaps in 15 games this season, can be an NFL starter?

Boykin has done a pretty good job in the slot this season. But in a league in which wide receivers keep getting bigger, can he survive outside, even with a 40-inch vertical leap?

"I believe he can play outside," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "It's tough for shorter corners nowadays with the receivers being so big. You don't want him out there against the 6-5, 6-6 guys all the time, especially in the red zone. But there are a lot of guys out there like that. Once he works on his fundamentals and his footwork, which he knows we get on him about every day, I think he'll be fine."

Boykin is quick to point out that Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, who has an NFL-high eight interceptions, isn't even 5-8.

"People try to use stature [against me]," he said. "It matters in certain situations. Maybe in the red zone or jump balls. But that's part of playing corner. It doesn't matter.

"Strength plays a big part. Technique. Knowing where to be at the right time or having the proper footwork. Not getting beat over the top. That's really the key. The size and the height, it's a little bit of a [disadvantage]. But if you have the quickness to stay with your guy, that's what matters."

Size isn't a problem for Marsh. He's 6-1 and 197 pounds. But he has been used sparingly on defense. He's been the team's fifth corner, behind DRC, Asomugha, Boykin and even Brandon Hughes.

"I think Curtis started out the year fine," Bowles said. "He had a good camp. But I think going into the year, some of the mental things may have caught up with him a little bit, and just piecing it all together as a football player. Physically and mentally, he has all the tools. He just has to put it together."

Figuring the Eagles

* LeSean McCoy is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. That's not bad, but it's six-tenths of a yard less than he averaged last season. The biggest difference in McCoy's production has come on second down. Last year, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry on second down. This year, he's averaging 4.2.

* Since rushing for 347 yards combined against Carolina and Dallas, Bryce Brown has averaged only 1.8 yards per carry in the last three games.

* Mike Vick, who will start Sunday against the Giants in the Meadowlands, has a 69.2 passer rating on the road this season and 89.9 at home. In his five starts at the Linc, Vick has a .638 completion percentage and has averaged 7.79 yards per attempt. In four starts on the road, he has a .537 completion percentage and has averaged 5.98 yards per attempt.

* Vick is ranked 24th in the league in passing, but is third in third-down passing with a 103.6 rating. Seven of his 11 touchdown passes and only one of his nine interceptions have come on third down. The Giants defense is ranked 30th in third-down efficiency.

Quick hits

* Evan Mathis played well enough to make the Pro Bowl this season, but given the Eagles' 4-11 record and Mathis' low league profile, it's hardly surprising that he didn't. The three guards who made the NFC team were the Saints' Jahri Evans, the 49ers' Mike Iupati and the Giants' Chris Snee. Evans, who earned his fourth Pro Bowl invite, is the best guard in the league and pretty much will make it every year. But Mathis has played as well or better than both Iupati and Snee.

* Another guy playing very well right now is defensive end Brandon Graham. In 195 pass-rush opportunities this season, he's has 5.5 sacks, eight knockdowns and 28 hurries. The Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, who has had 292 more pass-rush opportunities than Graham, has only 6.5 sacks, five knockdowns and 44 hurries. It will be interesting to see how Graham does next season in a new defensive system.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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