The Eagles, more than perhaps any NFL team besides the Chiefs, are a freight train headed toward the playoffs. At 11-1, they don't just have more wins than anyone else. They're also off to their best start since 2004, when they advanced to 13-1 before making a Super Bowl bid. Which means they're off to an even better start than in 2017, when they went 10-1 before dropping a second game, and went on to win their first Lombardi Trophy.
With that in mind, it's fair to wonder: are the 2022 Eagles actually better than their title-winning predecessors? Of course we don't mean it in the literal sense; until they hoist their own trophy, they are inferior. But what about talent-wise? Are the present-day Birds even more dangerous, with an even more balanced roster? Let's run through the major positions and decide:
2017: Carson Wentz/Nick Foles
2022: Jalen Hurts
Before going down with a torn ACL, Wentz was a legitimate MVP candidate, thriving as a play-extender. Foles, meanwhile, was a historic injury replacement, lacking Wentz's athleticism but offering clutch downfield touch. And yet Hurts, remarkably, has been even better thus far, taking the best attributes from each predecessor's game. One of the toughest, most reliable runners at the position, his leaps as a passer this year cannot be overstated; he's dishing the ball efficiently and accurately at every level. Only Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes has been a steadier example of playmaking poise.
Ajayi and Blount were a lightning-and-thunder combo, with the former excelling in space and Blount setting the tone with smashmouth size, while Clement chipped in as a feisty pass catcher. Sanders, meanwhile, has exploded as more of a featured back in 2022, ranking among league-leaders in 20+ yard carries. It's truly a tossup here; the 2017 unit was more of a collective, but behind this year's line, and in conjunction with Hurts, Sanders has arguably been more slippery overall.
Jeffery represented a massive upgrade out wide, even though his numbers weren't gaudy; his strength as a possession receiver enabled Torrey Smith to star as a deep threat, with Agholor enjoying a breakout as an energetic safety valve. But there's no denying the 2022 group's star power: Brown is an alpha male in his prime, pairing a monster frame with downfield juice; DeVonta Smith is a pristine route-runner whose slender frame doesn't match his fight; and Watkins is a solid speed option.
An all-time Eagle, Ertz was a QB's best friend, always winning on key downs with tight-window catches. Celek, once an unofficial receiver himself, was mostly a blocker as his reserve, but Burton shined in some important spots as well. Goedert is a smoother athlete than all of them, with the potential for Ertz-level impact when healthy, but since a chunk of his 2022 has been wiped out due to injury, the verdict is simpler.
2017: Jason Peters/Halapoulivaati Vaitai (LT), Stefen Wisniewski (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Brandon Brooks (RG), Lane Johnson (RT)
2022: Jordan Mailata (LT), Isaac Seumalo (LG), Jason Kelce (C), Landon Dickerson (RG), Lane Johnson (RT)
This is one of the biggest testaments to general manager Howie Roseman's roster-building: the Eagles consistently win in the trenches. Peters was past his Hall of Fame prime before an injury forced Vaitai into action, but the Kelce-Brooks-Johnson trio on the right side was nearly unbeatable down the stretch in 2017, paving the way for both Wentz and Foles to dominate. Mailata is more gifted at left tackle today, while Kelce and Johnson remain in All-Pro form, especially when powering the ground game.
Cox was one of the game's most disruptive interior men during the title run, and Jernigan had a career outing as his partner; the two combined for eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 25 QB hits. The former is a shell of his former self now, better suited in rotation, but Hargrave has filled the gap as one of the NFL's best pass-rushing tackles. Davis and Joseph, meanwhile, offer mammoth-sized run defense if they can stay on the field. A late add and former stud, Suh is just a bonus rotational piece.
While the 2017 rotation lacked a true home-run hitter, the ageless duo of Graham and Long proved especially effective in the clutch, with the latter excelling as a forced-fumble artist. Barnett was also a much more promising No. 4 than Quinn. But there's slightly more firepower up top this year; Reddick has been a frequent terror gunning for QBs as a stand-up blitzer, while Sweat and Graham have teamed up to form the equivalent of an All-Pro starter with underrated strength and persistence.
Edwards is a hard-nosed tackling machine, and both White and Dean offer athletic upside. But the Eagles' current "D" works mostly because of what happens on the front and back ends. Bradham, on the other hand, brought a lot of physicality and personality to the bend-but-don't-break championship group. Hicks was instinctive before going down, and Kendricks, though deployed in limited fashion, did his job in a sort of post-benched revival.
Both Darby and Mills were prone to surrendering deep balls, but the former had plenty of play speed, and the latter had unmatched confidence, playing bigger than his size suggested. Robinson was the X factor, leading the club in picks as a surprise slot star. Slay and Bradberry are a bona fide shutdown duo, however; they aren't elite ballhawks and differ in personality -- Slay is the colorful character, Bradberry the quiet lurking presence -- but both excel at getting handsy on tight throws.
Jenkins was one of the heartbeats of the title run, not only for his vocal smarts and leadership but rangy versatility; in a single series, he'd go from run-stopper to slot corner to center fielder, doing all the jobs well. McLeod was the hard-hitting sidekick, and Graham fared well as a deep cover man. Gardner-Johnson, following in Jenkins' footsteps as a Saint-turned-Eagle, has been one of the NFL's top pick artists when healthy. But sidelined, he doesn't have the playmaking experience to replace him.
Elliott remains among the better kickers in the NFL, but he had a little spark of destiny in his leg as a rookie in 2017, when he went 5-for-6 on 50+ yard attempts, including a game-winning 61-yarder. Jones, meanwhile, a longtime veteran, was probably a touch more consistent than Siposs, averaging 45.3 yards per punt while dropping 21 kicks inside opponents' 20-yard line.
2017: Doug Pederson (HC), Frank Reich (OC), Jim Schwartz (DC)
2022: Nick Sirianni (HC), Shane Steichen (OC), Jonathan Gannon (DC)
Sirianni brings the requisite Philly-esque spunk to the sidelines, and he and Steichen have truly unlocked Hurts as an apparent face of the franchise. But Pederson and Reich were ahead of the curve in 2017, proving more aggressive and creative than most offensive minds of the time, especially considering how quickly they adapted to serious injuries at QB and across the lineup. Schwartz, like Gannon, never led a wholly suffocating "D" but got big results in the turnover department, making this a fairly even comparison. Still, how do you top a Super Bowl-winning staff?
The final verdict
2017 advantages: 5
2022 advantages: 5
Wow. We can promise this was not intentional. Boring, right? No! Running through the major positions, it should be pretty clear that, even if you swap advantages on one or two spots, this is a truly close comparison. And that is a big testament to the potential of the present-day Eagles. Again, until they make an actual playoff run, the 2017 Birds should be etched in history by themselves. But if you call yourself a Philly fan, it's safe to say you've got plenty of reason to revive those title hopes.