This Sunday, Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles come to the Valley favored by nearly a touchdown against the Cardinals.
Fans might grumble, but the line makes sense. The Eagles are 4-0—the lone remaining unbeaten team in the league—with Hurts playing like an MVP candidate. The Eagles’ offense and defense are both top-3 in the league by yardage. At this early juncture, they really do look like the team to beat in the NFC.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals had to scramble and scrape just to get to 2-2. Their offense is thoroughly middle of the pack and their defense has given up the fifth-most points in the league. This is far from the fast-starting squad we saw last season, when *we* were the last unbeaten team in the league.
There are a lot of similarities between these two teams if you think about it. Young, dual-threat QB from Oklahoma still on his rookie deal. Young, offensive-minded head coach in his first head NFL job. Both teams coming off blowout losses in the wild card round last year.
Yeah, these teams have a lot in common. But what I can’t stop thinking about is this tweet from former team writer Kyle Odegard:
The Cardinals should really be where the Eagles and Dolphins are right now, with a stacked roster surrounding their low-cost QB. The gulf feels pretty wide tho.— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) September 26, 2022
Why is it the Eagles who are 4-0 and on the obvious ascent and not the Cardinals? Why don’t we have a formidable offensive line, an enviable fleet of pass catchers, a mean, star-studded defense? The Eagles have as complete a roster as any team in the NFL, made possible by Hurts’ cheap rookie deal.
Kyler’s extension doesn’t kick in until 2024, so he’s still on his rookie deal. Shouldn’t we have a stronger roster around him by now? Our offensive line is mediocre at best—I was surprised to see them ranked #13 in PFF’s latest offensive line rankings.
I do like our skill position players, and GM Steve Keim deserves kudos for the DeAndre Hopkins and Hollywood Brown trades. But Hopkins is suspended and the cupboard is almost bare behind him and Hollywood. Rondale Moore is looking more and more like the next Andy Isabella, the last member of the spectacular failure of Keim’s 2019 WR crop to be released.
We’re solid at RB, but we overpaid for both James Conner and Eagles castoff TE Zach Ertz in the offseason. They’re good players and fairly paid this season, but those contracts are not going to age well. Hey, at least we used our first draft pick last year on Ertz’s heir apparent!
On the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles front seven has a ton of elite, homegrown talent—Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and T.J. Edwards are all having great seasons. Oh, and they also have Cardinals castoff Haason Reddick, who has 3.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles already. At corner, the Eagles invested in the outstanding duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry—who was there for the taking this offseason. He didn’t sign with the Eagles until May.
For the Cardinals, Zach Allen is making a huge leap in his third season, Dennis Gardeck is a nice role player on the edge, and Rashard Lawrence is looking like a solid rotational DT. But his draftmate Leki Fotu has done next to nothing as a pro—and don’t even get me started on the Isaiah Simmons/Zaven Collins ILB combo. They’re inconsistent AT BEST. At this point, it seems almost certain that neither will live up to their 1st-round draft status. As for the pass rush, the Cardinals are dead last in the league with a paltry 4 sacks. We sure could use someone like Haason Reddick on the roster right now.
At corner, Byron Murphy has more than lived up to his 2nd-round draft status, but the corner spot opposite him is a black hole. Sorry, Marco Wilson defenders, but he’s a bad football player right now. Man, wouldn’t James Bradberry look great opposite Murphy? At least the Cardinals have the definite edge over the Eagles at safety.
Listen, the Cardinals aren’t a bad football team. I’ve been fairly hard on them in my recent columns, but they did win 11 games last season and look like they’ll be in the playoff picture again this year.
Still, they are exactly .500 since Kyler came into the league—26-26-1. This team should have a much stronger roster around him than they do right now. But years of poor drafting and free agent misfires has left this team with some serious flaws. It’s obviously early, but the Cardinals don’t look anywhere near the contender the Eagles seem to be.
There’s one final point that I want to make here, one that many of you are probably already thinking. I’m comparing this year’s Cardinals team to this year’s Eagles team, but how do we know the Eagles aren’t more like the Cardinals *last year*?
Like I mentioned earlier, it was us who took the league by storm in the first half of the season with a high-flying offense and a scrappy defense. But we all remember how that ended.
So it’s far too soon to crown the Eagles. They could very well suffer the same kind of collapse we did last year. Maybe it even starts on Sunday with an upset loss to these Cardinals.
But if you compare the rosters, an upset just doesn’t seem likely—and neither does an Eagles collapse. Their team is just built better than ours from top to bottom. Cardinals fans should be green with envy just looking at it.
At some point, this organization needs to ask why they have been able to build a complete roster around their young QB and we haven’t. There’s still time, but the window to build that kind of roster around Kyler is almost closed. Once his extension kicks in, Keim is going to need to stop whiffing on draft picks and start being smarter in free agency.
Assuming he’s still around in 2024. But if this team is the best he can do with Kyler making peanuts, what makes anyone think Keim is going to be able to do much better once his QB is making $50M a year?
Like I said earlier, these teams have a lot in common. But when they take the field on Sunday, we might be looking at one team’s window starting to close while the other’s looks wide open.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I don’t look at the Eagles for the next several years and think, “This could have been us.”