The 25 Most Dependable Players in Philadelphia Eagles History
For those of us who were victims of the 2011 Eagles "Dream Team," reliability seems like a distant concept. It seems that the Eagles failed to show any instance of reliability the entire season, with players committing penalties at the wrong times, being tackled by imaginary defenders, failing to make big catches and failing to make big stops.
But the Philadelphia Eagles are a storied franchise, and has had it share of great players in the past. Its entire history is filled with instances of reliable play from now Eagles legends. When times are rough, it often helps to remember the good times past and what the franchise once boasted on its rosters.
So without further ado, I present the 25 most reliable players in Eagles history...
25. Sheldon Brown (CB) 2002-2009
Sheldon Brown is perhaps one of the most underrated players in Eagles history. Brown is a very physical corner and excels in man-coverage, which was a great complement to more big-play heavy corners such as Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel.
Brown may not have had many big-plays (although he was very capable of grabbing interceptions) but he was a very reliable cornerback. Proof of this is the struggling play of the Eagles secondary ever since Brown’s departure following the 2009 season.
24. Donovan McNabb (QB) 1999-2009
Although Donovan McNabb failed to win a championship with the Eagles, one cannot forget the player that he was in his prime. He not only accumulated great stats and wins, but he was dependable.
So many regular season wins were due to his strong play when it was needed most in the fourth quarter.
And while he has a reputation for faltering in the NFC Championship, he could always be counted on for strong play throughout the rest of the postseason run.
As no other Eagles quarterback has taken the Eagles on as many playoff runs as McNabb has, he still deserves to make this list.
23. Herm Edwards (CB) 1977-1985
Herm Edwards was a reliable cornerback with the Eagles and played during the Eagles’ first Super Bowl run with the team in the 1980 season.
His 33 interceptions are just one short of the most in franchise history, and he is perhaps best remembered for his clutch fumble recovery at the Miracle at the Meadowlands. Edwards also never missed a game in his entire nine year career.
Few can claim to be more dependable than him.
22. Hugh Douglas (DE) 1998-2002
Hugh Douglas had only a very short stint with the team, playing with Philadelphia for only four years, but he made Pro Bowl for the first three straight years. And he has the third most sacks in franchise history.
Douglas was not the best defensive end when it came to run defense, but the Eagles used his freakish athleticism to generate sacks. And Douglas was one of the best at getting to the quarterback in Eagles history not named Reggie White.
When healthy, Douglas could be counted on for an average of about 12 sacks per game. And his motor never seemed to slow down, even towards the end of the season.
21.Mike Quick (WR) 1982-1990
Mike Quick is near the top of every Eagles all-time receiving record. Quick was the favorite target of Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham and was often their go-to guy in the passing game.
Donovan McNabb would suffer from the lack of a reliable wide receiver to throw the ball to, but Jaworski and Cunningham never did.
20.Clyde Simmons (DE) 1986-1993
Clyde Simmons is often overshadowed by the achievements of Reggie White. But with 100 or more career sacks, he was also amazingly reliable and is the Eagles sack-leader second only to Reggie White.
He could also be counted on to consistently get to the quarterback and to at least pressure him. Or to cause enough havoc to allow White to spring loose on the quarterback.
19. Byron Evans (LB) 1987-1994
Byron Evans was a very reliable linebacker with the Eagles, registering the third most tackles in Eagles history. He was always near or around the ball and could be counted on to make the stops when he was supposed to.
A reliable linebacker like him would do wonders for the abysmal run defense and the lack of talent currently in Philadelphia at the linebacker position.
18. Duce Staley (RB) 1997-2003
Duce Staley is also one of the more underrated players in league history. With a career average of 4.0 yards per attempt, Staley may not have been the playmaker Westbrook was, but you could always count on him for a few tough-earned yards. His bruising running style was the perfect complement to Andy Reid’s pass-happy approach.
Even in the 2004 NFC Championship, when the Eagles passing game had completely fallen to pieces against the lowly Carolina Panthers, only Staley continued to play at a high level and make plays. He was an excellent running back and, most importantly, a dependable one.
17. Trent Cole (DE) 2005-Present
While it is easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding newly acquired sack-monster Jason Babin, don’t be fooled. Trent Cole remains the best defensive end on the Eagles roster.
While Babin is clearly better in terms of generating sacks and pressure, Cole is not far worse as a pass-rusher. And Cole excels far more in defending the run, an area where Babin struggles.
Cole is the far more reliable defensive end and is a welcome addition to any team in the NFL.
16. Keith Byars (FB) 1986-1992
Bryars was a very reliable fullback who could block, catch, and run. And even throw, as he threw four touchdown passes in 1990.
He did everything the Eagles expected of him and did it well.
He was a perfect fullback and this makes him one of the franchise’s most reliable players.
15. David Akers (K) 1999-2010
Eagles fans may be quick to point out Akers’ multiple missed field goals in the 2011 Wild Card Round against the Green Bay Packers, which contributed greatly to the Eagles losing that game. But Akers’ daughter had been diagnosed with cancer that weekend. A tragedy such as that would affect anyone’s play.
If we instead remember the good times had with Akers, we will remember that one would be hard-pressed to find a more reliable kicker. Akers is the franchise leader in points scored and his combination of accuracy and power made him practically automatic from within the 60 yard line for much of his career.
When he began to age, he no longer had the leg strength he once did, but was still always automatic within the 50 yard line, and could still occasionally make them within 55 yards. He is currently having a career year with San Francisco and his services have greatly contributed to their turnaround season.
If I had to pick one kicker in his prime for my NFL team it would likely be Adam Vinatieri. But other than him, it would most certainly be David Akers.
14. Jon Runyan (RT) 2000-2008
While Donovan McNabb was one of the greatest passers in Eagles history, he couldn’t have done it without a ton of help. And while this help rarely came in the form of a game-changing receiver, they did come in the form of great offensive line play.
Jon Runyan was one of the best linemen in the game in his prime. He was a nasty player and always kept defenders at bay, and is perhaps most famous for his ability to stop future hall-of-famer Michael Strahan.
The right side of the line was always solid thanks to Runyan’s protection.
13. Tra Thomas (LT) 1998-2008
And while Runyan is one of the most reliable tackles in Eagles history, the title for most reliable tackle must go to Tra Thomas.
With the extraordinarily important task of protecting Donovan McNabb’s blindside, Thomas ensured for his entire career that that would never be an issue. Other areas of the line may break down at times and cause McNabb to scramble out of the pocket, but McNabb’s blindside was almost always safe.
With Thomas at the left tackle spot, it was rare for Eagles fans to fear for the quarterback getting blindsided.
12. Wilbert Montgomery, 1977-1984
Wilbert Montgomery is the Eagles leader in practically every single rushing category. Few players could match his combination of size and speed and he was one of the most feared backs in the league at his prime.
No other back was as dependable as Montgomery in the Eagles running game, as he helped lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance.
Montgomery was always a threat for a big play or to muscle through for a few tough-earned yards. And as he was also a threat in the passing game, he was a complete back and one of the most dependable in franchise and league history.
11. Seth Joyner (LB) 1986-1993
Seth Joyner has recorded 20 interceptions and 20 sacks for his career. He has the most tackles by a linebacker in Eagles history.
If you ever needed a huge tackle or stop you knew Joyner was waiting in the midst. He helped to make the Eagles defense one to be feared around the league.
10. Andre Waters (S) 1984-1993
Andre Waters played during a time when the Eagles did not win many playoff games. But for any problems the Eagles may have had, defense was certainly not one of them. And Waters helped to lead the way for the Eagles there.
He is the All-Time Eagles leader in tackles and was renowned as one of the league’s hardest hitting defenders. Similar to the linebackers mentioned above in this list, if you ever needed a defensive player to come up big, Waters was likely lurking right around the corner waiting to strike.
9. Eric Allen (CB) 1988-1994
Another member of Buddy Ryan’s defense makes this list, but it was truly a fearsome unit. The reason for it was due to the amount of not only talented, but reliable playmakers on the team. Eric Allen specialized in interceptions and was good for at least three picks a season.
But he did not just grab them at random times, he could be depended on to get them, often in crucial situations, and also return them for big yardage. His most memorable play may have been his 94 yard touchdown return in the 1993 season in the fourth quarter, with an injury to Randall Cunningham.
A magnificently clutch play that allowed the Eagles to win the game from an incredibly reliable cornerback.
8. Harold Carmichael (WR) 1971-1983
At the time Harold Carmichael was the largest wide receiver to ever play football.
While many pundits then believed that he was too large to be a receiver, he instead dominated the passing game with his size and physicality.
He was too large for most corners to cover one-on-one and quickly became a security blanket for Ron Jaworski. He is the Eagles’ All-Time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
7. Tommy McDonald (WR) 1957-1963
If one were to look up Tommy McDonald’s stats he may find that they are similar to the dominant receivers of the present day, as he was usually good for around 10 touchdowns a season with the Eagles.
But those stats are phenomenal when we consider the era that McDonald was playing in, where passing was not nearly as common as it is now. McDonald had amazing hands and so long as he could touch the pass, he could catch it.
He was one of the most reliable players in Eagles history and retired with the second most receiving touchdowns of all time at the time.
6. Tom Brookshier (DB) 1953, 1956-1961
Tom Brookshier is one of the only Eagles to have their jerseys retired, and with good reason. He was Instrumental to the Eagles’ 1960 Championship run. He was a ferocious defender and was always around the football.
He and Bednarik could always be counted on to come up big for the Eagles defense. Brookshier was also noted at the time for being a great leader for the team. He was one of the most reliable defenders in Eagles, and perhaps league history.
5. Pete Retzlaff (HB/WR/TE) 1956-1966
Despite the fact that Retzlaff never caught a pass in college, he would lead the NFL in receptions in 1958 with 56 receptions and was always a favorite target of Norm Van Brocklin, as well as Sonny Jurgensen and Norman Snead.
He was Instrumental to the Eagles championship run due to his incredibly reliable play.
4. Reggie White (DE) 1985-1992
How could White be anything but reliable? His job was to rush the passer and he has done just that, accumulating 124 sacks and setting the Eagles all-time record for quarterback take-downs.
White averaged 15.5 sacks per season with the Eagles, a phenomenal feat considering passing plays were not as common as they are in this era.
If few else was going right, you could at least count on White to take down the quarterback.
3. Al Wistert (OT) 1944-1951
While Al Wistert played during a time in which there were no football All-Star games until the very end of his career, he still managed to make the All-Pro team eight times. And he was named to the first ever Pro Bowl.
He was a very good o-linemen and was instrumental to the team’s 1948 and 1949 championship runs. Quarterback Tommy Thompson could never have led the Eagles to its three consecutive NFL Championship victories without Wistert’s protection.
2. Chuck Bednarik (LB/C) 1949-1962
One of the NFL’s fiercest hitters of all time, Chuck Bednarik was always around the football and caused havoc wherever he went.
He was also not capable just of playing linebacker, but he also started at the center position.
Bednarik was also incredibly durable despite all this contact, as he only missed three games in his entire 14 year career. He was a very good football player and one of the most reliable in franchise history.
1. Brian Dawkins (FS) 1996-2008
Dawkins was the heart and soul of the Eagles defense. He was Weapon X, and did everything in his body to make plays and help the Eagles to win. He left the Eagles with 898 tackles, 34 interceptions, and 21 sacks after starting 182 of 183 games.
Dawkins was also a phenomenal leader, mentoring young players and holding veterans together to make Philadelphia’s defense one to be reckoned with. To this day, Eagles fans are feeling the effects of the loss of his reliable play at safety and overall as a defender.