Looking back at last season’s team compared to this seasons’ team, there are many similarities to how the season worked out.

Both last year and this season, they suffered several injuries and each season saw at least ten or more players on injured reserve. The season ended the same way as last year where they found themselves two games under .500 (4-6 in 2018 & 5-7 in 2019) and clawed their way to 9-7 to make the playoffs.

We saw the front seven come alive in terms of stopping the run as both seasons saw the Eagles rank in the top 10 in rush defense. Fans unfortunately also saw the secondary both seasons let them down in key games.  While the secondary improved their pass defense (30th in 2018 compared to 19th in 2019), the secondary still had issues with covering deep pass plays as they were prone to get burned on big plays.

There are so many ways that fans can compare this season to last year, but when you look into the numbers and the play on the field, it’s hard not to think that the 2019 Eagles team is better than the 2018 Eagles.

Some statistics and some eye tests show that this year’s team, while banged up, has some traits of a division champion that football fans have not seen before.

Quarterback Play

Of course, the one thing fans want to compare is Carson Wentz to Nick Foles. It’s hard not to since Nick Foles started for the Eagles late in the 2017 season and led them to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title. In 2017 and 2018, Foles had to finish the job after Wentz went down both seasons with injuries. This season was different as Wentz was able to successfully complete a 16-game season. The best way to compare Wentz and Foles is to look at how each quarterback ended the last five games of the season.

Both quarterbacks were able to help the Eagles win four of their last five games and at least a three-game winning streak to end the season and earn a playoff berth. The few differences between them though were Foles had a significantly harder schedule than Wentz did as Foles had three straight weeks of playing teams with winning records (Cowboys, Rams, and Texans) accumulating a 2-1 record in that span. While Wentz had an easier record at the end of the season, he did have to face three straight divisional rivals which NFL fans know that all division games are the toughest parts of their schedule.

Statistically speaking, Foles has Wentz beat on competition where Foles completed about 72% while Wentz only completed about 67% of his passes. Wentz was able to get Foles on yards, touchdowns, and interceptions.

Carson Wentz – 1,509 yards 10 touchdowns 1 interception

Nick Foles – 1,413 yards 7 touchdowns 4 interceptions

These numbers can be interpreted in several different ways, but the one thing Wentz has on Foles is the talent around them. Foles had a historical season from Zach Ertz and also was healthy at receiver with Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate, and Nelson Agholor. Wentz was able to get productivity through Boston Scott and Miles Sanders out of the backfield catching and running, but also Greg Ward Jr., JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Dallas Goedert, and Joshua Perkins came out of nowhere to pick up the slack from their injuries at receiver. With injuries also on the offensive line for Wentz, something should be said about Wentz pulled the banged-up team together to make an improbable run to a division title.

Running Back Play

Foles didn’t get a ton of help from his running game last year, but a big part of them being successful on offense down the stretch has to be focused on the running backs. The Eagles had to turn to Josh Adams to pick up the road leading up to the playoffs, while Jordan Howard went down which led to Miles Sanders and Boston Scott being called on to pick up the load.

The rushing attack last year was ranked 30th in the league while this season’s team made a giant leap up to 11th in rushing yards. Adams ran the ball hard between the tackles and did an exceptional job getting them to the finish line, but still for an unknown reason was not handed the ball to during the playoffs. The running game just never gained momentum for the Eagles and as a result, Foles was asked to carry the team on his back by throwing.

Scott really came alive both times he played against the Giants as their defense couldn’t contain him in the passing games. Sanders had a rough start to the season that resulted in him losing his job to Howard, but after Howard went down, something sparked in Sanders and when he gets outside the tackles, he was tough to take down. The two backs together were a ton of fun to watch and fans noticed that Wentz had confidence in them as their offense revolved around throwing short, screen passes to their backs. Scott and Sanders deserve credit for getting this year’s team back on track and taking pressure off of Wentz and the banged-up receiving core.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Play

Has it been mentioned how many injuries this team offensively has faced? Alshon Jeffery, Desean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, and even Zach Ertz at the end of the season. Last year’s team was different from all the injuries coming from the defense and the offense having to pick up the slack. This time around, a lot of undrafted rookies and practice squad players have had to pick up the load.

In 2018, Foles had a lot to work with as Zach Ertz caught an NFL record 116 passes for a tight end and not to mention he had plenty to throw it to with Agholor, Jeffery, and Tate in the lineup. Foles didn’t have much help from his running backs like Wentz has had this season, but his offense was healthier.

Greg Ward Jr.’s development has been the surprise of the season as he helped make one of the biggest plays of the season when he caught the game-winning touchdown against Washington late in the season. Every ball that seemed to be thrown his way, Ward Jr. was able to grab and became a trusted third-down receiver for Wentz to throw to. Ward Jr. played his way into a potential slot receiver role next year.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside barely played at the beginning of the season especially after dropping a critical pass in the loss against the Lions earlier in the season. He was able to playback into the good graces of his coaches after stepping into the lineup late in the year.

Dallas Goedert had some big drops at the beginning of the season, but the second half of the season had made fans think this may be the best tight end duo the franchise has ever seen. He came up big in the Cowboys and Giants game at the end of the season as he became Wentz’s favorite target with Ertz’s injury.

Secondary Play

Last season was a disaster for the secondary as we saw multiple different starters in the secondary due to the many, many injuries they sustained. With all the lineup changes, that resulted in poor play by several players who were undrafted rookies and practice squad players (much like the receivers). The secondary ranked 30th in passing yards allowed but did show improvement towards the end of the season thanks in part to the great play of the front seven with putting pressure on the quarterback.

This year’s secondary has had their moments of ups and downs. They held Tom Brady and Russell Wilson to a combined 416 yards passing, but have been prone to allowing big plays in the passing game. Too many times we saw average receivers like DeVante Parker (Dolphins), Darius Slayton (Giants), and Terry McLaurin (Redskins) rack up big numbers on the Eagles secondary.

The key addition of Jalen Mills returning to the lineup from the IR made all the difference in the world. Granted, he has allowed big plays this season, but he is one of the best corners on the team. Ronald Darby struggled mightily until he was placed on IR. Sidney Jones made big plays in three of the last four games and has come up big in important moments for the defense.

Overall, the secondary improved to 19th in pass defense which shows major improvement and a chance to keep improving with the younger corners.

Featured Image: Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer
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