Eagles Share Similarities With 1-4 Teams That Made Playoffs
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins knows from his time with the 2004 Green Bay Packers what it takes to go from 1-4 to the playoffs. The Eagles just might have the formula.
The odds aren’t in the Eagles favor to climb out of the 1-4 hole they’ve dug themselves and find their way into the playoffs. Since the divisions were realigned in 1990 and the third Wild Card spot was added in each conference, just five of the 100 teams that started 1-4 made the playoffs and no 1-5 squad has made it. There is hope, though. The Eagles have four people who were part of those turnarounds in their ranks, and they share a lot of common traits with those five squads that beat the odds.
The 1992 Chargers, 1993 Oilers, 2002 Jets, 2002 Titans and 2004 Packers makeup the quintet of teams that came back from the depths of a 1-4 start to play in the postseason. Cullen Jenkins, a first year Eagle playing defensive tackle, and Doug Pederson, a quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia after a career primarily spent as a backup signal caller, were teammates on the 2004 Packers. Juqua Parker, a defensive end, started his career in Tennessee and was part of the 2002 Titans, along with his defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Those four have the experience and know what it takes to go from 1-4 to the playoffs.
“Cullen speaks up a lot and J.P. speaks up a lot too,” said middle linebacker Jamar Chaney. “We know what we’ve got to do and we know what we’re capable of. You can hear stuff but [not] listen to it, so we don’t listen to what the outside – media, fans – what they say. The only thing that matters is [that] we know what we’re capable of [and] we know what we believe in.”
Those 2004 Packers may be the aforementioned team that has the most in common with the 2011 Eagles. Both won their season opener and had new defensive coordinators. Both had fumbling problems with normally sure-handed wide receivers. Javon Walker and Donald Driver coughed the ball up for the Packers, while Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin did for the Eagles.
Perhaps most importantly, both made the playoffs in nine of the 11 seasons before their 1-4 start and believed they could go on a big winning streak.
“The biggest thing I took out of  was just the attitude that was around that,” said Jenkins. “You go into a winning organization, you know, that’s been winning for awhile. That’s what people believe in, is winning. Even though youre going through a tough time you know that that’s what it is, it’s just a tough time and you’ll get it corrected and get it turned around.”
Of course it takes more than confidence to stop a train wreck in progress. Of the 100 teams that started 1-4, 95 went on to miss the playoffs. As for the five that did, they shared several common statistics or situations. All averaged at least 2.2 turnovers per game and had a negative turnover differential during their bad start. The Eagles average three turnovers and have a -10 turnover margin through five games.
“If we go out there and eliminate just one of the turnovers per game, things turn out differently,” said Jeremy Maclin of the previous four games. ”Obviously we want to take care of the ball better than that, but we have been executing as far as on offense and defense. [It's] at the right times getting the job done.”
Although the Eagles obviously need to protect the ball better – they lead the league with 15 giveaways, their defense also hasn’t helped much. Philadelphia’s five takeaways are the fourth-fewest in the NFL.
“We talk about that, we even talk about it going into the series in the games, just trying to get the turnovers because turnovers can lead to points,” said Jenkins. ”Any time you start to get two, three turnovers in a game, it increases your chance of winning the game a whole lot. So that’s got to be something that we’ve got to be more mindful of, it’s something that we’re trying to do better.”
Jenkins said the defense is working on recognizing situations where they should take an extra swipe at the ball to dislodge it. Of course, it’s a balancing act, as going for the ball can lead to missed arm tackles, and the Birds have struggled with their tackling as well. But, the defense has plenty of reason to think it can take a big step forward, as the Birds are continuing to get comfortable under new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
That’s another common trait with the five teams that turned it around. Four of them had a new scheme being learned on some level, either employing a new head coach, coordinator, or starting quarterback. Three of those five had a new defensive coordinator.
“It’s got to be a factor when you have a new defense because nobody knew what’s going on until we reported to training camp,” said Chaney. ”Anytime you have a new defensive plan and then you bring in as many new players as we did, and [have] new players playing with each other, only time is going to make that happen. But you don’t want to make any excuses either, we should have been getting the job done these last couple of games.”
It’s been just over a month since the Eagles got the job done, with their lone win coming on opening day. Perhaps that bodes well for the Birds though, three of the five comeback teams won their season opener. Four of the five had their bye in week five, six or seven. The Eagles are off in week seven.
Three of the five started the turnaround against a division rival. The Eagles visit the Redskins this week.
“We’re 1-4, but we’ve been blessed not to have anybody in our division really undefeated or teams still losing in our division,” said Jamar Chaney. “So we’re not that far behind and we play the number one team in our division this week so we have a lot to say about that with the outcome of this game.”
Chaney pointed out that the Eagles could pull to within 1.5 games of first place with a win (and some help), despite being 2-4. So, what do the Eagles have to do to start the turnaround and continue to fit the mold? It’s really quite simple. They need to take care of the football.
Four of the five teams cut their turnovers by at least 48 percent per game after the bad start. Four of the five generated more turnovers per game on defense in their last 11 games. Four of the five had a positive turnover margin, and all five improved the margin by at least .85 turnovers per game.
So forget the vulnerable rushing defense, forget the red zone problems, forget the big plays Philadelphia’s defense has allowed. Those are problems, but they aren’t the main problem keeping the Eagles from winning. The main focus should be turnovers. Can the Eagles fix things around in that department? It could be as simple as some improved luck.
“Sometimes it’s a little cyclic,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. ”There’s been several crazy things happen during the year, balls tipped up and these type of things, so, but [Michael Vick]‘s very conscious of it.”
Vick is responsible for 10 of the Eagles’ 15 turnovers, so protecting the ball better will have to start with him.
“We need to just not commit the same mistakes over and over again,” Vick said. “I think it’s just guys trying too hard and being to the best they can be at that position. We’re going to try and limit that and just keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been very productive, but at the same time, we’ve beat ourselves. We have to knock that out.”
If they can turn things around, history shows that the path to the playoffs from 1-4 goes through the division. Four of the five previous turnaround teams went undefeated in their division after their bad start, finishing 4-2 or better in the division. All five won their division.
Three of the Eagles next five games, including the next two, are against NFC opponents. So despite a 1-4 start, the table is still set for the Eagles if they can fix their turnover problems sooner rather than later.
||During 1-4 Start
||Last 11 Games
Please follow Ryan Messick on Twitter and like Philly Sports Report on Facebook.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Michael Vick's support of Andy Reid must be honest.
"Coach is very confident, very smart, and I think he puts us in ...
1. The Eagles are the only team in the top 15 in the league in both total offense and total defense with a losing record, and the Birds aren't just ...
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick can't enjoy the biggest offensive performance of his career, yardage wise, because it came in what could become a season-defining loss to the 49ers. Philadelphia fell ...
When a team comes into a season as one of a handful of Super Bowl favorites, then starts off 1-2, questions arise. Are the Eagles the real deal? Are they ...
The Eagles offense relies on big plays. They want to get the ball deep down the field in the passing game to take full advantage of the talents of DeSean ...
They say you can throw out the records and the six-game winning streak the Eagles hold over the Giants coming into today's meeting at Lincoln Financial Field. They say none ...
1. Has Michael Vick regressed? Was he just a flash in the pan? The Eagles bet the house on the contrary, but the numbers are concerning. One of the biggest ...
All of the talk between now and 8:20 p.m. Sunday Night will surround Michael Vick's return to Atlanta as a starter, and for good reason - it's a big story. ...
Eagles Circle the Wagons, Back Reid
Monday Musings – October 10, 2011 – The
Michael Vick: “Over My Dead Body”
Eagles Offense Wants Surgical Precision, Defense Needs to
Eagles Offense Wants Surgical Precision
Eagles and Giants Bring Clashing Styles Into Rivalry
Monday Musings – September 19, 2011 – Is
As Hype Surrounds Vick’s Return to Atlanta as