The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the most curious franchises in the NFL. They've been both praised and maligned, and are without question the most noteworthy team to never have a Super Bowl title to their credit. Despite this, they've have multiple eras where they have been among the best the league has to offer, and ones in which they're squarely at the bottom of the totem pole. Since the turn of the century, the overall fate of the Eagles has been largely positive with five trips to the NFC Championship along with a Super Bowl-appearance, but there have been several seasons of failure mixed in as well.
Naturally, this means that they've seen their players run the gamut, exhibiting the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The best Eagles since the year 2000 have been some of the best players to step on an NFL field in this era, and the worst simply couldn't lace up their cleats with pro-level players. There's a lot to choose from for either side of the aisle, as the Eagles have seen their fair share of both. Let's take a look at some of the elite Eagles players, and the ones that crashed and burned almost immediately.
Ranked below are the 8 best and 7 worst Philadelphia Eagles of the 21st Century.
15 Lito Sheppard (Best)
There were already some good incumbent cornerbacks on the Eagles roster in 2002 when Sheppard was drafted in the 1st round of the draft, but they were aging, and it was clear that replacements were needed soon. Sheppard came in and excelled for the better part of a decade in Philadelphia, giving the team the lockdown corner they needed to go far.
He was there for all of NFC Championship appearances in the 2000s, save for one, the year before he was drafted. He consistently proved why he such a highly touted prospect, and always handled the best receivers the opposition had to offer, with relative ease. While other cornerbacks of the era have surpassed him in sheer fame, Sheppard's efforts are noteworthy, and important as a fan-favorite in Eagles green.
14 Freddie Mitchell (Worst)
In a desire to help Donovan McNabb as a young franchise quarterback, the Eagles brass decided to take Mitchell in the 1st round of the 2001 draft. He almost never got acclimated to the offense in any way, save for a few circus catches that would pop up once in a while. Other than that, he was a severe disappointment, and just another in a long line of Eagles missteps when drafting wide receivers.
Of course, he was the receiver involved in the famous "4th & 26" catch, in which the Eagles overcame the Packers in the divisional round of the 2003 playoffs, after being down to their last play. Other than that, Mitchell was just your run of the mill draft bust, and a wasted pick for Philly in the 1st round.
13 DeSean Jackson (Best)
Before Jackson came along, the Eagles really had a difficult time drafting wide receivers, as the previous entry serves as a distinct example of. Many were wary when they saw it fit to take Jackson in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft out of California, but those fears were soon quelled when they saw him and his blazing speed in action.
This acquisition gave Philadelphia the deep threat on the outside of the field that they had been wanting for a long time. Fortunately, they were able to get one of the best receivers in that style who has ever laced up a pair of cleats. Jackson provided six stellar seasons in Philly before leaving for Washington, and stands as one of the best receivers in team history.
12 Nnamdi Asomugha (Worst)
One of the free agent signings that precipitated the dreaded "Dream Team" team of 2011, Asomugha had been very productive as a cornerback during his time in Oakland, and was considered by many to be one of the best free agents on the market. He was an immediate starter for the Eagles, and fell out of favor almost immediately.
It was clear that Asomugha was considerably past his prime, to put it lightly, and his coverage ability had severely deteriorated. He didn't live up to the expectations, and was one of the final daggers in the Andy Reid era, as he exited the team in 2012. He was one of the worst free agent signings in team history, and it represented a time period of about two seasons that is horrific for any Eagles fan.
11 David Akers (Best)
When it comes to the most clutch kickers in NFL history, Akers has to be mentioned with the very best. He was on the Eagles for all the NFC Championship appearances, and he made plenty of important kicks in the playoffs during that span of time. It's safe to say that without him, they wouldn't have won some pivotal games that furthered their deep playoff runs.
While kickers are often under appreciated parts of an NFL roster, Akers was anything but that in Philadelphia. Constantly heralded as one of the best players on the team, his efforts did not go unnoticed. Ultimately, while there have been flashier players to don the uniform, Akers proved why he was one of the greatest Eagles to ever suit up.
10 Mark Sanchez (Worst)
Signed to be the backup quarterback to Nick Foles in the middle of the Chip Kelly era, Sanchez was looking to put the memories of the infamous "butt-fumble" in his past, and re-establish himself as a viable NFL quarterback. He got his chance due to a Foles injury, and it wasn't pretty. Whenever Sanchez wasn't missing targets on the field, he was throwing ridiculous interceptions, and making just about the worst decisions possible.
That was essentially the end of Sanchez as a legitimate option for any team as a starting player. He fizzled out of Philly, only to be signed by the Broncos, where he couldn't beat out a rookie for the starting job. From here on out, it looks like an uphill battle for him, but he didn't do anything to help himself in that equation. Sanchez is one of the worst Eagles quarterbacks to ever put on a uniform.
9 Brian Westbrook (Best)
A local product out of Villanova, Westbrook was taken in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft, and was the catalyst that the Eagles' offense needed to become truly dangerous in the Andy Reid era. Westbrook was a dual threat out of the backfield, able to catch and run with the ball with ease. He was a player ahead of his time, and was one of the running backs to set a standard for the required skill set going forward.
In all, he was actually one of the most underrated running backs of his era as a whole. Westbrook simply racked up yards, no matter the way he got the ball. He was a dangerous weapon, and the Eagles wouldn't have had the amount of success they did during the 2000s with out him. He was one of the best offensive players in team history.
8 Bradley Fletcher (Worst)
Fletcher is probably one of the worst cornerbacks in team history, landing him the not-so-flattering nickname "burn't toast". He couldn't cover receivers with much consistency, but he was truly a liability on the deep pass. The amount of highlights where Fletcher has gotten beat by receivers for a touchdown is almost astronomical.
The entire secondary during the Chip Kelly era was a concern, but Fletcher was the worst of the bunch. He stayed for two seasons, and then was promptly released, never doing anything at all earn a contract extension. Any Eagles fan has awful memories of Fletcher giving up a plethora of touchdown passes, and he's one of the worst players to ever suit up in Philly.
7 Donovan McNabb (Best)
Looking at his career in retrospect, McNabb had his deficiencies. There's no question that he struggled with accuracy at times, and didn't always have the best, traditional qualities of a "leader" at the quarterback position. Even considering all of that, there's no doubt that he was one of the main reasons why the Eagles were able to have a ton of success in the 2000s.
McNabb was still a certified playmaker with a cannon of an arm. When he was able to have quality skill players around him on the offense, he succeeded, and that cannot be denied. He lived up to his billing as a 2nd-overall pick, and is definitely a top-3 quarterback in team history. There's room for criticism, but anybody who discredits him completely doesn't know what they're talking about.
6 DeMarco Murray (Worst)
Coming off a stellar season with the Cowboys, Murray was brought in during Chip Kelly's roster purge of 2015, and to replace the lead running back duties previously held by LeSean McCoy. The estimation that he would just continue his production in Kelly's offense was massively incorrect, and Murray went on to his worst season in the NFL.
It was his lone season with the Eagles, but it was enough to show that Murray simply wasn't a fit in Philly. Granted, Kelly's offense had been figured out at this point, but strictly going by what was exhibited on the field, Murray had one of the biggest letdowns of a season that any running back has had for the Eagles. With another coach, it may have worked out, but Murray was a severe disappointment, and was a big reason why Kelly was fired following the conclusion of the 2015 season.
5 Terrell Owens (Best)
Even considering how much of a locker room headache that he was, there's little question that T.O. was the catalyst that finally got the Eagles over the hump, and into the Super Bowl. He ended up having one of the best seasons of his career in 2004, and finally provided McNabb with an elite receiving weapon on the outside.
In truth, while the method he went about his contract gripes was crass to say the least, Philly really should have ponied up and paid him the money. Without the services of Owens, the team went on a down spin for a few seasons before they were able to get back to the NFC Championship. Owens may be maligned by just about everyone, but the production in his brief time in green couldn't be denied.
4 Riley Cooper (Worst)
For some inexplicable reason, Cooper was given a massive contract extension following the 2013 season. It was clear that his improved production was a direct result of being lined up as a starter opposite DeSean Jackson, who was almost always double-covered. It's no surprise that this was the only quality year of Cooper's career.
He was a starter for about four seasons in Philly, and almost all of them were a disappointment. The heralding of Cooper by the coaching staff as a legitimate receiving weapons is one of the biggest missteps in recent years for the Eagles. He's been off the team for two years now, and hasn't been signed by a single other team, indicating that starting him for so long was a massive mistake.
3 LeSean McCoy (Best)
The best running back in franchise history, McCoy was on the short list as one of the best runners in the game during his time with the Eagles. Not only was it a phenomenal return on a 2nd-round pick, but he also went on to achieve heights that many other players could only dream about.
At his peak there were few better in the league. McCoy's ability to cut and dash down the field with consistency was rivaled by few others in the league. He was a truly dynamic player, and still is most of the time, currently with the Bills. With an unmatched skill set, and a level of production that few others have equaled in Eagles history out of the backfield, McCoy is an all-time great who never should have been traded to begin with.
2 Nelson Agholor (Worst)
Of all the Eagles 1st-round busts over the years, Agholor is shaping up to be the worst of them all. In two NFL seasons, he hasn't just been bad, he's been woefully terrible. An inability to get open or catch the ball with consistency and a penchant for committing stupid penalties have combined to make him public enemy number 1 when it comes to Eagles football.
With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith now in the fold, it's unlikely Agholor is going to get any more ample opportunity to keep underachieving on the field. He's simply a lost cause by this point, and truly one of the worst draft picks in the history of the Eagles. As far disappointments go, he's hard to beat, and he'll likely struggle to stay in the league at all.
1 Brian Dawkins (Best)
To many, Dawkins is the greatest player in the history of the team, and at the least the best in the modern era. The sheer length of his career as a safety was impressive, and when you factor in the amount of elite seasons that he displayed, it's simply awe-inspiring. No Eagle has every played with as much fire and passion as Dawkins showed every time on the field.
His skill set was almost unparalleled for the position. Whether he stayed in coverage, played the run, or blitzed into the backfield, Dawkins showed why he was one of, if not the very best safety of his era. There's few Eagles to ever don the uniform who had as much pedigree and success that Dawkins did. He's the most important player of the Andy Reid era, and the defining reason why the defense excelled to incredible heights. In the opinion of most Eagles fans, there was never a better player to take the field in Philadelphia.
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