Philadephia Eagles: 5 Greatest Rookie Performances in Franchise History

WesAnalyst INovember 29, 2011

Philadephia Eagles: 5 Greatest Rookie Performances in Franchise History

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    Is Andy Reid coming back next year?

    It's the only question Eagles fans have with five games remaining in the most disappointing, underwhelming, underachieving and pathetic season in recent memory—and possibly, in franchise history.

    The thought of Reid coaching next year is causing some of the toughest, meanest and downright nastiest fans to act like frightened children.

    The scariest part of Reid returning next year is he would be responsible for making a high-end, first-round draft pick.

    He's struck gold with players such as LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Unfortunately, he's struck out far more often with players such as Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Sean Considine and Billy McMullen.

    If Reid somehow weasels his way back into town, or if Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie bring in someone new, let's hope one of the draft picks provides an immediate kick like the five players on this list.

Eric Allen

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    Eric Allen found himself in a difficult situation when he was drafted by the Eagles with the 30th overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.

    It was only two years earlier that Herm Edwards, who was a fixture at right cornerback from 1977-1985, left the Eagles. His departure created a void that left the Eagles scrambling for a replacement.

    Philadelphia turned to Evan Cooper first, but he was more of a punt returner than a defensive back.

    Elbert Foules was the second man to give it a go and it didn't work, as Foules was out of the NFL by the end of the '87 season.

    The search stopped with Allen.

    As a rookie, Allen started in all 16 games and proved he was not only capable of creating turnovers, but could also come up with big hits.

    Allen picked off five passes in 1988 and racked up 65 tackles.

    His five picks ranked third-best in his illustrious career, and his 65 tackles were his second highest career total.

    For those who think the above statement suggests Allen fell off after his rookie year, you need to reevaluate your thoughts. Allen made six Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro once over his next seven years in the NFL.

Tra Thomas

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    If Eric Allen got props for smoothing over the right cornerback position, then Tra Thomas can't be ignored.

    Philadelphia's left tackle position might as well have been a revolving door from 1984-1997. And when you can't find a consistent player at left tackle, the quarterback's blindside is exposed to big hits, and your offense will struggle.

    Thanks to Thomas, quarterback Donovan McNabb was able to have confidence in his line, and the Eagles were able to address other needs through the draft and free agency.

    Thomas was able to start all 16 games as a rookie and went on to miss only 10 games over his 11-year career with the Eagles. 

DeSean Jackson

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    It doesn't matter if you love DeSean Jackson or hate him. This is only about his rookie season and recognizing how great of a season it was.

    Here are all of Andy Reid's draft picks at wide receiver up to Jackon's selection in 2008: Na Brown, Troy Smith, Todd Pinkston, Gari Scott, Freddie Mitchell, Freddie Milons, Billy McMullen, Reggie Brown, Jason Avant and Jeremy Bloom.

    Those names alone should make everyone appreciate what Jackson brought to the table as a rookie.

    Jackson only caught 62 passes and found the end zone twice in his rookie season. When he hauled in a pass, it resulted in 14.7 yards per catch, which netted him 912 total receiving yards.

    And when he wasn't coming up with big plays, he was freeing things up for Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb to make plays. His presence even made players like Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett look serviceable.

    Jackson also showed his explosive playmaking skills as a punt returner with one touchdown on a league-leading 50 attempts.

    Imagine that. Reid finally addressed the wider receiver and punt returner position.

Reggie White

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    Is it okay to consider Reggie White a rookie in 1985 when he played in the USFL for two seasons prior to playing the NFL?

    Yes. Why the hell not? It was a different league playing a different game with different players.

    None of it slowed down White as he went off for 13 sacks and 100 tackles. The fact he was not named the Defensive Rookie of the Year or a Pro Bowl selection is criminal.

    He was the driving force behind a Top 10 defense and made everyone from the defensive line to the secondary better. And he did it in his first year.

    It eventually paved the way for the Eagles to have one of the most dominating defenses for more than five years—and possibly, the greatest defense of all time in 1991, which led the NFL in total, rushing and passing defense.

Steve Van Buren

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    Steve Van Buren, the greatest running back in franchise history, arrived in Philadelphia in 1944 from LSU as the fifth overall draft pick.

    He nearly did it all.

    As a rookie, Van Buren only carried the ball 80 times, but managed to score five touchdowns and rush for 444 yards, which gave him a league-leading 5.2 yards per carry.

    He also returned one punt and one kick for a touchdown, both of which led the league.

    Van Buren started six games on the defensive side of the ball as well and managed to pick off five passes.

    Oh, and he contributed to the stat column as a punter with one punt for 35 yards.

    All of his efforts eventually led the Eagles to back-to-back NFL Championships in 1948 and 1949.