The second half of the Andy Reid era featured a couple of Vincent and Taylor understudies, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown.
In 2002, the Eagles landed what might be their greatest draft class in team history. The first three rounds produced four starters of their 2004-2005 Super Bowl team, including third-rounder Brian Westbrook. , but Philly would also find three eventual starters for the secondary and an undrafted free-agent guard (Artis Hicks) that offseason. He became a starter as well.
Michael Lewis was taken in the second round of 2002, while the Eagles other second-round pick was used on hard-hitting cornerback, Sheldon Brown. Philly’s first-round selection was Lito Sheppard (26th overall). ’26’ would also be the number he’d wear with the Eagles. The tandem of Sheppard, Brown, and Lewis added to a secondary that already featured Taylor and Vincent (and nickel corner Al Harris) and the safety tandem of Bishop and Dawkins formed an absolutely loaded secondary. If only fans could be so lucky now.
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In 2003, the Eagles fought their way to their third straight NFC Championship game despite injuries to Brian Dawkins and Bobby Taylor. Taylor and Vincent would depart in free agency the following offseason, but Philadelphia had nary a worry as their replacements had acquired valuable playing time and experience. Sheppard started after Taylor was injured, while Lewis won the starting job in the 2003 offseason next to Dawkins.
Towards the end of the 2004-2005 campaign, the Eagles finally made it over the hump and proved the fourth time was the charm in the NFC Championship Game. They once again contained Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons, due in large part to their defense, now with Brown and Sheppard firmly entrenched as starters. They’d remain together until 2007. Sheppard would become the third corner when the Eagles signed Asante Samuel. The trio helped Andy Reid to a fifth NFC Championship Game appearance at the end of the 2008-2009 season. Unfortunately, that was another loss, Sheppard would be gone the following offseason.
Sheldon Brown would never be voted to a Pro Bowl. Sheppard would make two and earn a First-team All-Pro nod in 2004, his first full season as a starter. So where does that leave us? Which tandem was better?