Looks like we're headed for a... breakdown! (RIP Tom Petty)Well... The Eagles are 7-1 for the first time since the 2004 regular season when they went to the Super Bowl. Is this roster better? Worse?— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) October 30, 2017
Quarterback: Donovan McNabb vs. Carson Wentz
Look man, I don't want to disparage McNabb's career. He gets way too much shit from Eagles fans because he never led us all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, but he's the most accomplished Eagles quarterback since Norm Van Brocklin.
That said, I think we really might have something special on our hands with Carson Wentz. Throw out the physical tools - which he obviously has - because what really excites me about Wentz is his attitude.
His Players Tribune piece is a great example of his demeanor as a player. He welcomes contact, he doesn't expect to be treated special because he's a quarterback, and I don't think I've seen him complain on the field during his entire career.
The other obvious aspect of Wentz that we need to address is his religion. I'm not a very religious person, and it generally annoys me if athletes are especially in-your-face about their beliefs. Wentz is, unquestionably, a religious person - but I never feel like he's forcing it on anybody. I think he genuinely just wants to believe what he believes, and so far that has manifested itself in a team without distraction or controversy. That type of locker room leadership, especially as this magical soon-to-be-25-year-old ages, should draw comparisons to another NFL locker room with a steady leader at the helm.
Running Backs: Brian Westbrook, Dorsey Levens, Reno Mahe vs. LeGarrette Blount, Weldell Smallwood, Corey Clement
I love Brian Westbrook. It's probably a little bit of a Villanova thing, but he's probably my favorite Eagle from that early-2000's team. But I think the overall talent level of Blount-Smallwood-Clement is just too much for Dorsey Levens and Reno Mahe to match up with.
Maybe that 2003 team with Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley could match up, but not the 2004 version.
Receivers: Terrell Owens, Todd Pinkston, LJ Smith, Chad Lewis, Freddie Mitchell, Greg Lewis vs. Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffeey, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, Mack Hollins
TO was fifth in the league in receiving yards per game in 2004 and third in the league in receiving touchdowns. Pinkston was third in the league with 18.8 yards per reception. LJ Smith scored five touchdowns. Freddie Mitchell.. uh... well okay let's move on to this year's team.
Ertz is seventh among all players (not just tight ends) in receptions, eighth in receiving yards, and third in receiving touchdowns. Agholor is tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns. The other four from this year's team group nicely into two categories: veterans who will be asked to come up big down the stretch (Jeffery and Smith) and
Even as dominant as TO was, I think Ertz is going to match his 77 catches, 1200 yards, and 14 touchdowns. If you double his line from the first eight games, he's on pace for 86 catches, 1056 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Even if TO maintains a slight edge, the 2017 Eagles are extremely deep from spots 2-6 - the 2004 Eagles were.... not.
Kicker: David Akers vs. Jake Elliott
We all love David Akers, and rightfully so. In his 12 years as an Eagle, he was 441 for 447 on extra points and 294 for 357 on field goals (including 93.1% on attempts within 40 yards). BUT (and this is a big one) he didn't kick his 63-yard career-long until he was with the 49ers.
Jake Elliott kicked his 61-yard bomb right at home at Lincoln Financial Field, and Joel Embiid was there to witness it.
I'm going to call this one a tie for now, but if Elliott hits another bomb with a game on the line - or, dear lord, in the playoffs - I'm reserving my right to swing in his favor.
Defensive Line: Corey Simon, Hugh Douglas, Jevon Kearse, Sam Rayburn, Darwin Walker, Hollis Thomas, Derrick Burgess, vs. Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Beau Allen
It's this year's team and I'm sure there is plenty of material for you to read if you don't believe me. Perhaps you might like this preseason USA Today article where the Birds' d-line was ranked third-best in the league. Or there's this Jeff McLane piece after the season opener. You might even like this piece from Dave Zangaro following yesterday's trouncing of the 49ers.
Yeah, it's the 2017 version.
Linebackers: Jeremiah Trotter, Dhani Jones, Ike Reese, Keith Adams, Mark Simoneau vs. Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Defensive Backs: Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis, Roderick Hood vs. Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Rodney McLeod
I'm going to lump these two groups together because I essentially feel exactly the same about both. This year's units are certainly fine. I really like Jalen Mills, and the linebackers and defensive backs have been solid (at least) to my eyes basically all season. They certainly get passing grades, especially considering the losses of presumed starters Ronald Darby and Jordan Hicks.
But man, those 2004 units were incredible. Trotter and Jones were two of the best (and most likable) Eagles linebackers ever. That secondary is insane, and the only reason they don't get remembered more vividly is because they followed the team that lined up Dawkins-Sheppard-Lewis-Brown-Troy Vincent-Bobby Taylor, which is quite possibly the best defensive backfield of all time.
Both teams are very good, and they are both chock full of likable players who are also extremely talented. Thank you for reading.