2022 Eagles starting to look like 2017 Eagles, and that's OK


It started when kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered a season-ending hip injury in Washington on opening day.

Pro Bowl returner Darren Sproles was next in Week 3 with a season-ending knee injury against the Giants, and then special teams ace Chris Maragos suffered a knee injury in Carolina that wound up ending his career.

Then, in a late-October game against Washington at the Linc, playmaking linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters were both carted off the field, Hicks with a torn Achilles and Peters with a knee injury.

What else could happen to the 2017 Eagles we all wondered? How many more injuries could one team handle? What else could go wrong?

Then MVP hopeful Carson Wentz hobbled off the field at L.A. Coliseum with a knee injury that ended his season and ultimately changed the course of his career.

How can one team lose so many star players? It’s impossible. No team could ever deal with that much adversity. And that’s why the 2017 season turned into such a disaster and the Eagles never recovered and that promising start fizzled out late in the season.

OK, not quite.

One of the truly remarkable things about that 2017 Eagles team was its resilience in the face of injuries to the second-most accurate kicker in franchise history, an all-pro returner, a special teams captain, a Hall of Fame left tackle, a playmaking outside linebacker and a quarterback having a historic season.

That team’s ability to keep rolling with unknown kicker Jake Elliott, Big V at left tackle, Mychal Kendricks at outside linebacker, Kenyon Barner filling in for Sproles and some guy Nick Foles at quarterback really made that 2017 Super Bowl run special.

And as we sit here wondering when Jalen Hurts will be able to play again and how the Eagles will manage without Avonte Maddox and how much time Lane Johnson will have to miss and how this team is going to possibly rebound after flat-out handing a game to the Cowboys, it’s hard not to think back to that 2017 team, which powered through way more challenges than this team has faced and wound up parading up Broad Street.

Every NFL team is going to have injuries and bad losses and fumbles at the worst possible time and loose balls that bounce the wrong way and unthinkable penalties and near-interceptions and disasters in coverage and blown leads and special teams catastrophes and you name it.

And that stuff can kill a team. And it often does.

The lesson we learned in 2017 is that if you’re mentally tough enough and physically skilled enough and have tremendous leadership from your veterans and unfailing positivity from your head coach, you can overcome anything.

Does this team have what that team had? The intangibles? The leadership? The inner strength? 

We’ll see over these next few weeks. But staying focused and raising your game when all hell is breaking loose around you is something Nick Sirianni has been talking about since he got here.

“If I felt we had a bunch of guys that didn't love football or weren't tough or didn't have the right mental makeup, these (times) are really hard to navigate as a coach,” he said Monday. “It's really hard. But when you have a group of guys that we have and the leaders we have … they aren't going to be fazed by that. We're going to correct our mistakes and move on. 

“One of the earliest talks that we had in training camp is how adversity is coming. I don't know when it is, in what direction it will come. Could be anything. How are we going to handle that? 

Are we still mad about our loss? Absolutely, we are. Sometimes that fuels you to dig a little bit deeper so you don't let each other down. That's where we are right now. We are going to dig deeper, find more answers.”

What made that Super Bowl run five years ago so special was how that team found its way through every imaginable challenge it faced. Obviously, it would have been an unforgettable ride even if that team didn’t have a ton of injuries, including a season-ender to its Pro Bowl quarterback.

But the real personality of that team and that season was how the Eagles only grew stronger and stronger as they kept losing players and how a journeyman quarterback who had considered retiring two years earlier somehow morphed into Joe Montana when the games mattered the most.

Anything is possible when you build a roster the right way and you have the right people leading the way.

We should know that better than anyone.

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