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Comparing every starter from the Eagles’ 2004 and 2017 Super Bowl teams

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Which year was better?

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles Press Conference Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Super Bowl season in Philadelphia — er, Philadelphia by way of Minneapolis.

The last time the Eagles suited up for the big game, of course, came at the tail end of the 2004 season, the last time the Birds posted 13 wins. So we decided to take a peek back at every player who started for Philly against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX ... and then compare them to the starters of today’s high-flying Eagles.

The circumstances and expectations surrounding both teams probably couldn’t be more different, but position-by-position, which title-contending unit was better?

That’s for you to decide:

QB: Donovan McNabb (2004) vs. Nick Foles (2017)

Nicky Franchise deserves all the love for his playoff run, and some people still blame McNabb for the Eagles’ last Super Bowl loss, but this is easy: You jive with five. If Carson Wentz were healthy, maybe it’s a different story.

RB: Brian Westbrook (2004) vs. Jay Ajayi (2017)

Something tells me Ajayi could be in for a big night against the Patriots, and he’s probably the most dynamic RB the Eagles have had since LeSean McCoy. Still, you can’t not take B-West. The special teams ability is a bonus.

WR: Terrell Owens (2004) vs. Alshon Jeffery (2017)

Attitude-wise, you go with Alshon in a heartbeat. But the talent differential is clear.

WR: Todd Pinkston (2004) vs. Torrey Smith (2017)

This one almost deserves its own poll. Keep in mind that Pinkston made a spectacular leaping grab against the Patriots during his biggest Eagles game.

TE: L.J. Smith (2004) vs. Zach Ertz (2017)

No questions here. Even if Chad Lewis were healthy back in 2004, the Eagles of today possess the far superior weapon.

LT: Tra Thomas (2004) vs. Halapoulivaati Vaitai (2017)

Substitute Jason Peters for Vaitai, who admittedly has been playing well in the playoffs, and maybe we’ve got a close one.

LG: Artis Hicks (2004) vs. Stefen Wisniewski (2017)

Say what you want about Doug Pederson’s early-season guard rotation, but Wisniewski has been rock solid since taking over, especially in the postseason.

C: Hank Fraley (2004) vs. Jason Kelce (2017)

Very different players, but you almost have to ride with Kelce just because of the mobility he offers in the screen game.

RG: Jermane Mayberry (2004) vs. Brandon Brooks (2017)

The more you go through the offensive line, the more it looks like today’s Eagles are loaded on the interior and right side of the trenches.

RT: Jon Runyan (2004) vs. Lane Johnson (2017)

What a duo we’ve got here. Nasty vs. nasty. Take your pick, but if you’re looking for the athleticism to pair with Kelce, maybe you embrace the recency bias.

DE: Jevon Kearse (2004) vs. Brandon Graham (2017)

This has to be Graham, right? Kearse was awfully quiet in the Super Bowl and beyond despite his big name, whereas No. 55 is almost always going to give you pressure.

DE: Derrick Burgess (2004) vs. Vinny Curry (2017)

This is tough. Burgess had the Eagles’ lone sack in the last Super Bowl, but Curry has quietly stepped up as of late. Throw Chris Long here, and maybe it’s even closer.

DT: Corey Simon (2004) vs. Fletcher Cox (2017)

The Eagles paid Cox big money for a reason. No doubts on this one.

DT: Darwin Walker (2004) vs. Tim Jernigan (2017)

Jernigan has been dangerously quiet in recent months, in part due to injury. Still, perhaps his potential alone warrants a gamble.

LB: Jeremiah Trotter (2004) vs. Dannell Ellerbe (2017)

If the “Axe Man” was in 2004 shape and available this Sunday, the Eagles might actually build chunks of their defensive game plan around a base package.

LB: Keith Adams (2004) vs. Nigel Bradham (2017)

And here we have our biggest mismatch since Corey Simon and Fletcher Cox.

LB: Dhani Jones (2004) vs. Mychal Kendricks (2017)

How much stock do you put into your outside linebackers? The way Kendricks has been moving this season, this one leans in 2017’s favor, although then we’d miss the air guitar celebration.

CB: Lito Sheppard (2004) vs. Jalen Mills (2017)

It’s really tough to pass on Mills’ confidence, and it helps that No. 31 has also been scaring some quarterbacks away from his side. Do you want Lito’s big-play ball skills or would you rather a guy you know isn’t going to shy away from physicality?

CB: Sheldon Brown (2004) vs. Ronald Darby (2017)

This one almost depends on who you take at the other CB spot. Say you prefer Mills’ physicality. Then maybe you’d also want Darby’s complementary speed. Lito and Sheldon seem to belong together in the same way Mills and Darby are paired up.

S: Brian Dawkins (2004) vs. Malcolm Jenkins (2017)

Is it crazy to suggest this is actually something of a close call?

S: Michael Lewis (2004) vs. Rodney McLeod (2017)

McLeod’s versatility and ball skills seem like better fits for today’s NFL, but Lewis had that “enforcer” feel every now and then.

K: David Akers (2004) vs. Jake Elliott (2017)

The latter has been clutch, but longtime stability has to be considered, too.

P: Dirk Johnson (2004) vs. Donnie Jones (2017)

Battle of the “D” punters. Go with Donnie.

Poll

Which Eagles Super Bowl team was better?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    2004
    (921 votes)
  • 56%
    2017
    (3401 votes)
  • 28%
    Too close to call
    (1694 votes)
6016 votes total Vote Now