Eagles: Reasons for optimism; comparing this team to another 0-2 Eagles squad who defied the odds

Just two weeks into the 2020 NFL season, and the Eagles look like a team destined for just five or six wins. They’ve been outscored 64-36, their quarterback is having an historically bad start to the season and the defense can’t stop a nose bleed. They couldn’t have started this season any worse, but this isn’t uncharted territory for this franchise.

Rewind the clocks to 2003. The Eagles were coming off back-to-back NFC Championship appearances and were primed to make another run in ’03. Like this 2020 squad, who’s also coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, the ’03 iteration saw a similarly horrendous start to their season. Opening their season against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they lost 17-0. They followed that abysmal loss with an embarrassing performance against the New England Patriots, losing 31-10 in one of Donovan McNabb’s worst games as an Eagle.

Sound familiar? You don’t have to look too hard to see the similarities with these two Eagles teams. Both started 0-2, both QBs had historically bad starts to the season and both defensive units struggled immensely.

Speaking of the QB comparison, Carson Wentz is actually the first Eagles QB to start the season with a QB rating under 73 since McNabb in 2003.

Despite coming out of the gates completely flat, that ’03 team rallied to go 12-2 the rest of the way. It wasn’t because McNabb suddenly turned it on (he finished with just 16 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions), and it wasn’t because their defense started shutting down opposing offenses (they finished as the 20th overall defense in football), they just played a brand of cohesive, team football and found ways to beat you in a multitude of ways. They definitely had some bounces go their way, like Brian Westbrook’s miraculous walk-off punt return to beat the New York Giants, but they were able to ride the momentum from games like that en route to the No. 1 seed in the NFC and another trip to the NFC Championship game.

There’s no reason this current Eagles teams can’t rally back in a similar fashion.

For the most part, this 2020 team is more talented than in ’03. They have a better set of tight ends, a better defensive line and probably a better group of wide receivers. The same issues that are plaguing the 2020 Eagles hindered the ’03 team; like poor QB play, terrible linebackers (Mark Simoneau and Nate Wayne) and some aging veterans who seemed like they were on their last NFL breath (Duce Staley and Troy Vincent).

Andy Reid found ways to get the most out of this lackluster group, and that’s exactly what Doug Pederson is going to have to do if he wants to salvage this current Eagles team. Taking the pressure off Wentz, giving his skill players opportunities to make plays and forcing turnovers on the defense could turn this season around. Those are a lot of ‘ifs’, I get that, but it’s not impossible.

Starting 0-2 is more often than not a death sentence in the NFL, but let’s not act like this Eagles team doesn’t have the talent or the coaches to right the ship. All they need is one win, get some momentum on their side and maybe they can go on a run. It won’t be easy, but facing the Cincinnati Bengals this week should help this team gain some much needed confidence. The ’03 team’s opponent after starting 0-2 was the Buffalo Bills, one of the worst teams in the league that year.

Will this year’s team finish like the ’03 team did? It’s hard to predict considering how awful the first two weeks have gone. But that same sentiment was felt by the fanbase after the first two weeks in 2003. The tides in the NFL turn quick. In a few weeks, we could have a completely different outlook on this season.

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