Forced Fumbles

Posted: May 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 14 Comments »

There is a new site to check out, BloggingTheBeast.  It is a blog centered on the NFC East.  The content is pretty impressive so far.  The site is run by JimmyK, who some of you may know from Bleeding Green Nation.  If I had to describe his writing style, it would be 1/3 Sammie Beckett, 1/3 Billy Shakespeare, and 1/3 some random monkey punching a keyboard really hard.  I kid, of course.  Jimmy does a good job at BGN and has upped his game with the new blog.

He put up an interesting post the other day about forced fumbles (the FF I’m always referring to).  The Giants last year had an amazing total of 34.  The Eagles had 12.  Ouch.

Is there anything to be made of FFs?  Yes and no.  There is some luck involved.  Still, there is some skill as well.  For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll focus on 3 teams.

PHI — 2007 10 FFs, 2008 22 FFs , 2009 15 FFs , 2010 12 FFs = 59 FFs

CHI — 2007 24 FFs, 2008 8 FFs , 2009 25 FFs , 2010 23 FFs = 80 FFs

TEN — 2007 16 FFs, 2008 23 FFs , 2009 13 FFs , 2010 20 FFs = 72 FFs

I’m talking about us for obvious reasons.  The Titans are referenced because of the addition of Jim Washburn to run the DL and install his Wide Nine scheme.  I also went with the Bears since that is the outside team mentioned most by Juan Castillo.

The Bears are great at FFs.  The Titans are good.  We’re mediocre, maybe worse.  Why?

The Bears and Titans both run aggressive 1-gap schemes that let their D-linemen attack off the ball.  This allows them to get penetration and make plays.  Our DTs were eating up blocks.  Our DEs were playing the run as they worked upfield.  There wasn’t a mandate to get into the backfield as with the other systems.  The Titans had multiple DL with multiple FFs in each year.  That was only true for us in 2 of the 4 seasons.

Part of getting FFs is by design.  The Bears focus on gang tackling and hustling to the ball.  All teams do that to a certain extent, but it is life or death with Chicago.  Lovie Smith gets maximum effort from his players on every snap.  He makes it a way of life for them.  I think that is the key aspect of the Bears defense that Castillo wants to emulate.  Gang tackling helps with FFs.  The first defender focuses on tackling the runner/receiver.  Other players go for the ball.

FFs come usually one of two ways.  Either the defender hits the ballcarrier so hard that it jars the ball loose or the defender strips the ball.  The Eagles have done a mediocre job in both areas.  We haven’t had an impact hitter since Brian Dawkins was abducted by aliens and forced to play in the AFC.  Quintin Mikell is an effort hitter, but all you have to do is think back to the Jason Witten hit from 2007.  Q gave Witten everything he had and Witten bounced off it and ran for a huge play.  Q just isn’t an impact hitter.

Our LBs haven’t been big hitters.  Stew is a 260-pound MLB, but only has 1 career FF.  Jamar Chaney matched that total last year.  An old, old, old man like London Fletcher had 3 FFs last year.  Why?  He’s a punishing hitter.  Ernie Sims is a very physical player, but only has 5 career FFs.  He doesn’t know how to hit.

The Eagles have done a solid job with gang tackling, but something isn’t working with stripping the ball.  Either it wasn’t a focal point by the coaches or they did a lousy job of teaching.  The players also need to do a better job of playing the ball when they are closing in on the QB/runner/receiver.

Castillo isn’t focusing the defense on getting FFs, but he does want to do the things that tend to lead to more FFs.  Simplifying the scheme allows the players to play faster and is likely to lead to better pursuit/gang tackling.  Having the DL go back to a 1-gap, attacking scheme should help them to get more FFs and be more disruptive.  Castillo is also trying to make the defense more physical.  Jaiquawn Jarrett was chosen in part because of his ability as a hitter and enforcer.  CB Curtis Marsh was taken because he can be a big, physical CB.

It will be interesting to see how many FFs the Eagles come up with in 2011 and if the changes had a direct impact on the new total.

14 Comments on “Forced Fumbles”

  1. 1 Norman said at 1:01 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    Movin’ up in the world Jimmy, gettin’ props from Tommy and compared to Sam.

    High praised, but well deserved.

  2. 2 T_S_O_P said at 4:08 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    Q was an impact hitter or lucky guy in college. Did he finish his senior season with 8 or was it career with 8? Strange that it didn’t translate.

  3. 3 Kyle said at 4:10 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    Re FF as a gang tackle thing, I wonder if the coaches could put some kind of incentive on the line for the DL to produce. We know the player contracts have incentive clauses for performance. But that is individual accomplishment. For a team effort to be awarded, not just a game ball or pad on the back, could team institutes some kind of goal and award for reaching the goal?

    Glad to see that Juan and Jim are believers of attacking football, FF and sacks. It would be fun to watch our defense this season, whenever they get back on the field.

  4. 4 mcud said at 4:18 PM on May 24th, 2011:


    I would imagine that sort of thing would need to be part of a player’s contract, to stay within the rules of the salary cap. Sam will know.

  5. 5 Boyboy said at 4:34 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    “Is there anything to be made of FFs? Yes and KNOW.”

    Too much too drink? lol.

    I kid, I kid…

  6. 6 Tommy Lawlor said at 4:45 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    I wish I could blame that on beer. Instead:

    * The sun was in my eyes.
    * It was the altitude.
    * I was distracted by Eva Green’s nude scene in Camelot last week.
    * I drank a bunch of cough syrup this morning.
    * Mark Eckel made me do it.
    * Kyle Eckel made me do it.


    Still suffering after effects from the weekend’s Rapture.

  7. 7 Tommy Lawlor said at 4:53 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    @ TSOP…

    Great memory. Q did have 8 FFs as a Senior. Tied NCAA record of some guy named Freeney. Dwight Freeney I think it was. What ever happened to him?

    Q had 5 INTs in college. Funny how his INTs have gone up and FFs down in the NFL.

  8. 8 Jason said at 6:24 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    The Giants always seem to get FFs on strip sacks… They’re obviously very focused on that.

  9. 9 ultramattman said at 9:15 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    Forcing fumbles is absolutely a skill. A big part of what makes Dwight Freeney so great is his 40 career forced fumbles (on 94 career sacks.) It’s also noticably a focal point of certain defenses, like the Bears or the SB-winning-years Patriots. It’s definitely something the Eagles’ defense could stand to improve on. Physicality as a whole is something that JJ’s early defenses had in spades that late-decade defenses have lacked.

  10. 10 Stephen said at 11:00 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    Dawk was a master FF guy too, some of them were amazing also, like that one he did against Dallas in the 44-6 game by the sideline. Wow was that a hell of a play.

  11. 11 ATG said at 11:04 PM on May 24th, 2011:

    I think you missed a piece of forcing fumbles, or maybe glossed over it. It is not just about hitting hard. It is also when and how. Once a player has the ball secured away, most guys are hard to strip. Our attacking DLine, hopefully, will have them getting to the running back before he locks the ball away. The technique of the hard hit is important too, and I imagine one of the focal points of the back-to-basics approach. A guy coming in full speed, head up and getting his helmet on the ball is more important that just blowing the ball carrier up.

    Also, I will be adding Camelot to our Netflix queue.

  12. 12 Sam said at 11:34 PM on May 24th, 2011:


    There are team incentives in many contracts — winning the Super Bowl, for instance, or the team improving in X defensive category. The Eagles generally don’t use those, as far as I know. I don’t have a view on whether they should.

  13. 13 McG said at 12:23 PM on May 25th, 2011:

    I bet Trent Cole would have more FFs if he doesn’t have to drop back in pass coverage on 15-20% of his snaps this year… It may also help not getting them negated for gently brushing his hand across Napoleon Dynamite’s helmet. Oh wait, that was Peyton Manning, my bad!

  14. 14 dukebowden said at 1:37 PM on May 25th, 2011:

    We lost one of the great fumble forcers of all time when Dawk moved on. I believe he has the most of any defensive back in recorded NFL history.