2004 Eagles vs 2022 Eagles

The Eagles are 11-1 for just the 3rd time in their 90 year history. 1949, the Birds finished 12-1, winning the NFL Championship (shoutout Steve Van Buren). If you’re reading this, you’ll remember the other time. The magical T.O. year in 2004. That team is legendary around these parts. The build up after signing TO and Jevon Kearse. Dominating the regular season before Roy Williams broke TO’s leg. Crushing the Vikings and Falcons and then watching Owens comeback and tear apart the Patriots secondary only to fall just short in Super Bowl XXXIX.

That team was stacked with talent. McNabb, Westbrook, Owens, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Kearse, Trotter, B-Dawk, Lito, Sheldon Brown, Michael Lewis. What a squad. PS, I’m still mad Brown didn’t get a Pro Bowl nod that year so the entire secondary would have made the game haha.

Sunday’s game against Tennessee got me thinking about the 2004 team and how this squad in 2022 stacks up. Even taking into account how much the game has changed, RPO’s and offensive play calling, rules benefitting the offense more and players getting bigger, stronger, faster, the 2022 Eagles have already outplayed the 2004 team and they still have 5 games left to play. 2022’s version of the Birds will probably go down as the best statistical team in franchise history.

Let’s look at Donovan McNabb vs Jalen Hurts. Again, I know teams throw more now and offenses have more of an advantage than ever before but the numbers are interesting. McNabb finished 2004 with 3800+ yards, 31 TDs and 8 picks. At the time, he was the 1st QB to throw 30 TDs and have under 10 picks in a season. This was also in 14 games plus a quarter. The Eagles starters played one series against the Rams in week 16 before being pulled and didn’t play at all against the Bengals to close the regular season.

Hurts this year, through 12 games, has nearly 3000 yards, 20 pass TDs and only 3 INTs. He’s obviously a bigger running threat than McNabb, even in McNabb’s early years, so add in another 6oo+ yards on the ground and 9 TDs for Hurts. McNabb had 220 yards with 3 TDs in 2004. Both had accuracy issues/question and these seasons, 2004 & 2022, they each career highs (granted it’s only Hurts 3rd season).

The 2004 Eagles desperately needed to upgrade the wide receiver position so they went out and traded for Terrell Owens. He responded with 1200 yards and 14 TDs in 14 games. He came back for the Super Bowl only 7 weeks after breaking his leg and put up 122 yards against Bill Belicheck’s defense. The 2022 Eagles desperately needed to upgrade the receiver position so they went out and traded for AJ Brown. Brown has rewarded Philly with 950 yards and 9 TDs through 12 games. He’ll likely eclipse TO’s numbers from 2004. TBD if he’ll do sit ups in his driveway during training camp next year.

Philly’s second leading receiver in 2004 was a running back. Brian Westbrook had 700+ yards and 6 TDs catching the ball out of the backfield. Alligator arms himself Todd Pinkston had 676 yards and 1 TD as the team’s third leading receiver. 2022’s second and third receivers are DeVonta Brown (711/4) and Dallas Goedert (544/3). I’m sorry but Brown>Westbrook (AS A NUMBER 2 RECEIVER) and Goedert>Pinkston.

Running the ball was always something for Eagles fans to chime in on during the 2000s with Andy Reid at the helm. The teams 1639 rush yards as a whole was towards the bottom of the league that year, even with Westbrook taking the bulk of the carries for the first time in his career. For as great at Westbrook was, he only had two 1000 yard rushing seasons. 2004 was not one of them, as he finished the year with 812 yards and 3 TDs on the ground. The 2022 Eagles have already outgained the 2004 team in rush yards through 12 games, gaining 1855 on the ground. Miles Sanders is having a career year with 924 yards and 9 TDs. 23 total rush TDs in 2022 compared to 10 in 2004.

Turning to the defense, the first thing that jumped out to me was sacks. The "other" big off-season signing that year was Kearse and he produced to the tune of leading the team in sacks in 2004, although it was just 7.5. The 2022 Eagles already have two guys above that mark with the "other" big off-season signing Hasson Reddick leading the team at 9 sacks and Javon Hargrave sitting at 8 sacks. The 2004 team total was 47 sacks as they shared the love when it came to getting after the quarterback, with 17 players registering at least a half sack that year. 2022’s squad come more from the same guys up front, with 11 guys registering a sack stat.

Lito Sheppard led the way with 5 picks in 2004, a mark already eclipsed by CJ Gardner-Johnson in 11 games. 2004 team total was 17 and the 2022 team already has 15.

The one clear advantage the 2004 team has…THE KICKER! David "Green" Akers (loved when Chris Berman would say that on Primetime) lead the team in scoring at 122 points. He was 27/32 on field goals and 41/42 on extra points. Jake Elliot is being used far less frequently as he’s at 9/11 on field goals and 37/39 on extra points. Obvious changes in rules for the length of FG plus team’s desire to go for it more on 4th downs now diminish Elliot’s outlook vs Akers.

Each teams progress throughout the year has been similar as well. Although expectations for each team were different coming into their respective seasons, the results have followed the same path. Expectations for the 2004 team were Super Bowl or bust after 3 consecutive NFC Championship game appearances and the splash in free agency. 2022 was the make or break year for Hurts but not many, if any, were expecting this. Each team got off to a HOT start before showing signs of cracks in the armor then righting the ship with some statement wins. 2004 saw double digits wins in each of the first 5 games, two close games that they pulled out before losing badly to the Steelers. After that Pittsburgh loss, four wins of double digits followed. 2022 saw seven wins in a row to start the year, six of them by double digits. The Houston game was a double digit win but the team looked a little off followed by the loss to the Commanders and a squeaker of a win vs the Colts before two dominant performances against Green Bay and Tennessee.

The similarities between the 2004 team and this 2022 team are blatant. This 2022 is better than the 2004 team IMO. What’s better than coming up just short in the biggest game of them all? Well…..