Over the last two decades, the Philadelphia Eagles have remained one of the most relevant football teams across the league. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it because the franchise has had a lot of variations from low to high points. For example the team won the Super Bowl in 2018 and by 2020 was one of the worst teams in the league. However by 2022 they have the opportunity to be a premier team in the NFL.
Starting at the Top
Ever since Jeffrey Lurie bought the team in 1994, the Eagles have been one of the most consistently competitive teams in football. In the 28 seasons since he bought the team, they have won 10 games in a season 13 times, made the playoffs 16 times, made the NFC Championship 6 times and appeared in the Super Bowl two times and of course winning one.
Lurie isn’t the only reason that the team is good, as teams with bad owners can be good, most recently the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has helped them sustain pretty consistent success for almost 30 years. He has shown that he is not cheap, with the most recent examples being AJ Brown and Haason Reddick being signed to $100 million and $45 million deals respectively.
He also isn’t afraid to spend big on in house talent either, as Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Jake Elliot have all received extensions to make them among the highest paid at their positions. Jeffrey Lurie can get a bad reputation among Eagles fans sometimes, and while I’m not defending him against all criticism, he is one of the better NFL owners and treats the Eagles like the big market team they are.
Eagles Building in the Trenches
If there is one thing that the Eagles do better than any other team in the league, it’s building a strong offensive and defensive line combo. The team values these positions more than almost all the others on the field and consistently spends the resources necessary to keep them strong. Many people believe that football games are won in the trenches and with what the Eagles invest in their lines, it seems to be a good strategy.
My favorite example of this is the evolution of the left tackle position across the last 24 years. Tra Thomas was drafted by the Eagles in the first round in 1998, made 165 starts for the Birds and was a stalwart of their offensive line for over a decade.
After Thomas’s time with the team was over, they immediately replaced him by trading with the Buffalo Bills for All-Pro Jason Peters. The Bodyguard went on to start 148 games with the club over the course of 12 seasons, while making 7 Pro-Bowls and 4 All-Pro teams, while carving a possible hall of fame career.
When Peters and the team parted ways in 2020, there already had a successor waiting in the wings to take his place with 7th round Rugby player Jordan Mailata. Mailata’s career is just getting started but there is no real reason to believe he can’t follow in the footsteps of other great left tackles in Eagles history. This commitment to great line play has really carried the team throughout the last few decades and cannot be understated just how important it is.
Drafting and Developing Talent
Some people may read the headline to this section and be completely confused. General Manager Howie Roseman has gotten a reputation as being a bad drafter and while it is warranted in some years like 2019 and 2020, recently, he has kind of turned the corner. One of the biggest problems with the post-Super Bowl Eagles is that their teams tended to be really old in NFL standards and this often led to injuries and underperformance.
Since the team bottomed out in 2020 with 4 wins, they have done a much better job at drafting and developing homegrown talent. The 2021 draft was great to the Birds since they were able to draft a franchise wide receiver in DeVonta Smith, a franchise guard with Landon Dickerson and a possible future starter in Milton Williams and rotational pieces with Zech McPhearson and Kenneth Gainwell.
While the 2022 draftees have yet to play a real NFL game, they appeared to have filled major holes in the lineup with defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, as well as drafting for future needs with Cam Jurgens being the Jason Kelce replacement whenever he decides to retire.
Even in years where the team didn’t necessarily hit the draft out of the park, they have still managed to find key contributors, like Avonte Maddox, Dallas Goedert, Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, among others. In order for a team to remain competitive, there needs to be a constant influx of cheap, young talent and the Eagles are filling their roster with just that.
The Eagles have remained one of the more well run organizations in the National Football League for almost 3 decades and with the direction the team is headed, I do not expect that to change any time soon.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire