Extra Points: Comparing 2022 Eagles to 2004 Edition
By DAVID WEINBERG
It's been a while since the Eagles got off to such a great start.
They enter tonight's game at Houston as the NFL's only undefeated team at 7-0. They won their first seven games only once before in franchise history, when coach Andy Reid, quarterback Donovan McNabb, new wide receiver Terrell Owens and company stormed out of the gate in 2004.
That 2004 team enjoyed a terrific year, securing the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 regular-season record, despite losing Owens for the stretch run and first three games of the playoffs to an ankle injury. Owens returned for Super Bowl XXXIX, but the Birds fell short in their bid for a championship with a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in Jacksonville, Florida.
That team was loaded with talent. McNabb and Owens were among a whopping 10 Pro Bowlers, along with running back Brian Westbrook, middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, tackle Tra Thomas, cornerback Lito Sheppard, safeties Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis, special teamer Ike Reese and place-kicker David Akers. Owens, Sheppard and Dawkins were also first-team All Pro.
This year's team also had its share of standouts, including a new wide receiver. Like Owens in 2004, A.J. Brown has been nothing short of tremendous. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has been mentioned as an MVP candidate. They have a long way to go, but they have fans dreaming of another Super Bowl.
Here's one opinion how the 2004 and 2022 Eagles compare.
2004 - McNabb was in his fifth season as a full-time starter and was established as one of the league's best quarterbacks. He threw 13 touchdown passes against three interceptions in the first seven games and finished the regular season with 3,807 yards with a career-high 31 touchdown passes against just eight interceptions. He only ran when necessary, rushing for 116 yards and two TDs in the first seven games.
2022 - Hurts has developed into an elite quarterback in just his second full season. He had 10 TD passes vs. 2 interceptions while also rushing for 303 yards and six TDs, which leads all NFL quarterbacks.
ADVANTAGE - Slight edge to 2004 (McNabb) because of his overall body of work, though Hurts is just a smidge behind him.
2004 - Duce Staley's departure and Correll Buckhalter's preseason knee jury left Westbrook as the top running back. He responded by rushing for 812 yards and three TDS while also leading all NFL running backs with 73 receptions for another 703 yards and six TDs. Dorsey Levens provided some depth while rushing for 410 yards and four TDs.
2022 - After not scoring a single touchdown last season, Miles Sanders has reached the end zone five times so far this season while also rushing for 563 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell have been decent backups.
ADVANTAGE - 2004 because of Westbrook's versatility.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
2004 - Owens gave the Eagles their first legitimate No. 1 wide receiver since Irving Fryar had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 1996-97. He registered 42 receptions for 697 yards and 10 TDs in the first seven games, including five straight 100-yard games. He had 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and 14 TDs before suffering a serious ankle injury in the 14th game. Todd Pinkston added 36 catches and a TD that season while Freddie Mitchell contributed 22 receptions. Tight ends Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith combined for 63 catches and 8 TDs.
2022 - Brown and DeVonta Smith give the Eagles a formidible one-two punch. Brown leads with 53 catches for 659 yards and five TDs while Brown has 51 catches for 420 yards and two scores. Quez Watkins has been slightly disappointing with just 11 catches and 1 TD. Tight end Dallas Goedert has been impressive with 41 catches for 421 yards and a TD.
ADVANTAGE - 2022 because of depth. Brown and Smith have been a dynamic duo.
2004 - Thomas and Jon Runyan formed the league's top tackle tandem. Thomas made the Pro Bowl at left tackle. Runyan was the NFL's best right tackle but was often snubbed from postseason honors because of aggressive style. First-round draft pick Shawn Andrews broke his leg on opening day and missed the rest of the season. Guard Jermane Mayberry wound up as a Pro Bowler. Artis Hicks was a solid left guard. Center Hank Fraley was solid.
2022 - Center Jason Kelce is a potential Hall of Famer and is the soul of the team. Right tackle Lane Johnson is elite. Left tackle Jordan Mailata has developed into a potential Pro Bowler. Guards Landon Dickerson and Isaac Seumalo have been bothered by injuries at certain points of the season.
ADVANTAGE - I'm calling this a tie. Both lines were/are outstanding.
2004 - The '04 Eagles had a fantastic defensive front. Tackles Sam Rayburn (6), Corey Simon (5.5) and Darwin Walker (4.5) combined for 16 sacks. Hollis Thomas had 21 tackles. New defensive end Jevon Kearse led the team with 7.5 sacks. Hugh Douglas returned to Philly after a stint in Jacksonville and added 3 sacks. Derrick Burgess and Jerome McDougle were also part of the outside rotation.
2022 - The front four just got strong with the recent trade for end Robert Quinn from the Bears. He joins a solid rotation with ends Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat. Perennial Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox is not as dominant, but he can still be disruptive. Rookie Jordan Davis was just placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Javon Hargrave has 3 sacks so far this season.
ADVANTAGE - 2004 because of its inside depth and productivity. Simon was a stud in those days.
2004 - Trotter, who came back to the Eagles after playing in Washington, was the heart of the defense as the middle linebacker. New outside linebacker Dhani Jones was known mainly for wearing bow ties after games, but was also a top player with 72 tackles. Mark Simoneau was quietly effective. Nate Wayne provided depth.
2022 - Haason Reddick has been as good as advertised. He leads the team with 5.5 sacks. Linebacker T.J. Edwards, who has 68 tackles and two sacks, deserves a Pro Bowl nod. He's been tremendous. Kyzir White is secon second on the team with 48 tackles.
ADVANTAGE - 2022. Reddick's pass rush is the difference.
2004 - Reid and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson gambled by replacing veterans Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. It paid off in a big way. The secondary featured three Pro Bowlers in Sheppard, Dawkins and Lewis and the argument could be made that Sheldon Brown also deserved a berth. Sheppard returned two of his five interceptions for touchdowns. Dawkins had four picks.
2022 - The additions of cornerback James Bradberry and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson have been huge. Bradberry and Darius Slay form one of the league's best cornerback tandems. Gardner-Johnson is tied for the league lead with four interceptions and Slay has three.
ADVANTAGE - Slight edge to 2004 because of Dawkins and Lewis in the back end.
2004 - Akers hit 27 of 32 field goals en route to the Pro Bowl. Punter Dirk Johnson averaged 42.1 yards per attempt. Reese was an absolute beast on the coverage units. Returners J.R. Reed and Dexter Wynee were nothing to write home about.
2022 - The unit has been woefully inconsistent, especially when it comes to defending fake punts. Place-kicker Jake Elliott is 6-for-7 on field goals while one-game replacement Cameron "The Kicker" Dicker was perfect at 2-for-2. Punter Arryn Siposs has been better this season after a lousy 2021. Returner Britain Covey is just OK. Cornerback Zech McPherson is considered their top player on coverage.
ADVANTAGE - I'll lean toward 2004 because of Reese.
2004 - Reid was in his sixth season and faced considerable pressure after three straight losses in NFC Championship games. Handling Owens and his volatile personality was a challenge, which became apparent the following season. It helped that he had terrific coordinators in Johnson, Marty Mornhinweg (offense) and John Harbaugh (special teams).
2022 - Head coach Nick Sirianni has the team believing in him and each other, which is a big factor in the team's success this season. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is the best in the league. He's worked wonders with the front five. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen has a good feel for play-calling. Defensive coordinator Johnathan Gannon is considered a future head coach. Special teams coordinator Michael Clay is on the hot seat.
ADVANTAGE - 2004 in a landslide. The current group has shown promise, but they have a ways to go.