PHILADELPHIA (AP) -The Philadelphia Eagles' defense has dropped the ball when it comes to turnovers this season.
The Eagles have always had a knack for separating opposing players from the football. But lately, there's been more turnover on Philadelphia's defensive unit than turnovers on the field.
The result has been a measly nine turnovers in eight games and a concerned defensive coordinator heading into another crucial division game in a 3-5 season that is quickly slipping away.
``It's something you can just keep talking about and we work on it,'' Jim Johnson said Wednesday as the Eagles prepped for the Washington Redskins (5-3). ``We work on stripping the ball, our individual stuff like that. It doesn't always work out, but you keep trying and that's all you can keep doing. ... Hopefully, you get some stripped balls and interceptions.''
The Eagles have made six interceptions and picked up three fumbles. Philadelphia's nine takeaways are one more than winless Miami and tie the Eagles for fewest in the NFC with New Orleans and Arizona. The Detroit Lions lead the way in the NFC with 24 takeaways (14 interceptions, 10 fumbles), and San Diego paces the AFC with a balanced 11 interceptions and 10 fumbles recovered.
``I'm surprised,'' Johnson said. ``I thought we'd have more. I think the pressure's been good.''
Indeed, the Eagles have pressured opposing quarterbacks. Defensive end Trent Cole is tied for the league lead in sacks with nine and ranks third on the team with 60 tackles behind linebackers Omar Gaither (83 tackles) and Takeo Spikes (76).
The Eagles defense ranks seventh in the conference and 12th in the league. In the NFC, the Eagles are third against the run, allowing an average of 93 yards.
But Philadelphia has been vulnerable against the pass, ranking 11th in the conference and allowing 224 1/2 yards per game.
Pickings have been especially lean for the Eagles in the last three games, with a lone interception for the defense while going 1-2 against Chicago, Minnesota and Dallas. In two of their last three, the Birds didn't have a takeaway.
``It's surprising,'' Spikes said. ``I felt like we had more opportunities early, as far as dropping interceptions and stuff like that. But, it's disappointing up to this point ... The good thing is we still have time.''
Philadelphia's defense has faced its own kind of pressure this year. All-pro safety Brian Dawkins and All-Pro cornerback Lito Sheppard missed chunks of the season due to injury, and now Philly has to deal with the loss of safety Sean Considine, who is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury.
``You can't have mental mistakes,'' Dawkins said. ``We have to control the things we can control, and turnovers and mental mistakes are two of those things, and let the athletic ability we have take over games. We haven't been able to do that, because we're making so many mistakes in the losses we've had.''
At least one Eagles player believes turnovers are as much a product of luck as they are skill.
``As much as you like to say that turnovers are caused by the defense, a lot of times it is just guys being in the right place at the right time ... just getting a pinky on the ball,'' Gaither said. ``And we're doing that. It just hadn't happened.''
Last year, the Eagles used a late-season run to qualify for the postseason. They'll need the same kind of push over the final eight games to have a shot at the playoffs. But matching last season's takeaway totals of 10 fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions might be difficult.
``I can remember certain seasons that, for whatever reason, we didn't have a lot of turnovers,'' Dawkins said. ``Then, all of a sudden, they start coming, and they start coming in bunches. Maybe we need to make sure we're not trying too hard, and hopefully those things will start coming to us soon.''
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