Best of the 90’s

Posted: July 11th, 2024 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

Let’s look back at some Eagles players of the past. I’ve put together my All-Eagles team for the 1990’s. My only requirement is that the player needed to start for at least two years as an Eagle.

OFFENSE

WR Fred Barnett
WR Irving Fryar
QB Randall Cunningham
RB Ricky Watters
FB Kevin Turner
TE Keith Jackson
LT Tra Thomas
LG Joe Panos
C David Alexander
RG Lester Holmes
RT Antone Davis

There shouldn’t be too many questions about WR. You can make an argument for Calvin Williams, but Barnett and Fryar were better players. Barnett was the big play guy. “Arkansas Fred” averaged 15 yards per catch in his Eagles career. Fryar was a workhorse receiver. He caught 174 passes in 1995-96. He also had 17 TDs. The offense fell apart in 1998 and Fryar didn’t exactly help matters. Still, he was great for two years. Beyond being a terrific receiver, Fryar was an outstanding blocker. He was a tough, physical player and was perfect for Jon Gruden’s West Coast Offense.

Cunningham looked like he was headed for Canton in 1990, but his career fell apart after that. Injuries, coaching, off-field distractions and other oddities turned an all-time talent into a maddeningly inconsistent player. He was benched in 1992, 1994 and 1995. And he was still the best QB in the decade. Those were strange days.

“For who? For what?” turned into a stud RB for three years. Watters ran for 3,794 yards and 31 TDs as an Eagle. He was a physical runner who could also deliver big plays. Watters was a gifted receiver as well. He is one of the best free agent signings in Eagles history. Turner paved the way for Watters. Turner was a good blocker, but also a talented runner and receiver. Gruden would call FB screens to make sure he got the ball to Turner.

Jackson left as a free agent prior to 1992, but he was terrific for the previous two seasons. He lacked ideal size at 6-2, 250, but Jackson was a gifted receiver. He was Cunningham’s safety blanket. When in doubt, find 88 and get him the ball.

Thomas was drafted in 1998 and became a franchise LT. He turned a weakness into a strength for a long time. Panos started 40 games for the Eagles. He didn’t have special size or athleticism, but he was physical and would battle all game long. Alexander was the rock for the OL of the early 90’s. He started every game from 1989-1994. That kind of consistency is highly valuable at a position like center. Alexander was only 6-3, 275, but he was a smart technician and got the job done. Holmes was a strong, physical blocker. He relied on strength and natural ability and didn’t really develop the positional skills needed to become a Pro Bowl player. The Eagles paid a steep price to draft Davis. Because of that, many people see him in a negative light. He never became the great OT they hoped for. Davis did start 74 games. When he was good, he could be really good. Davis was just too inconsistent.

DEFENSE

DE Clyde Simmons
DT Jerome Brown
DT Andy Harmon
DE Reggie White
LB William Thomas
MLB Byron Evans
LB Seth Joyner
SS Andre Waters
FS Brian Dawkins
CB Eric Allen
CB Troy Vincent

Simmons and White were a dynamic duo. You had to double Reggie, but that meant Clyde was going to kill you off the right side. He led the NFL with 19 sacks in 1992 and was a force to be reckoned with. Reggie was Reggie.

Jerome Brown was a special player in his own right. He combined explosive quickness with great strength and agility. At his best, he was overwhelming. Brown’s death in the summer of 1992 was heartbreaking. Harmon was 6-4, 278. He was quick and disruptive. He was a terrific inside rusher, racking up 38.5 sacks over a 4-year span. Harmon wasn’t an ideal run defender due to his lack of bulk. He was able to shoot gaps and make plays. Sadly, a nasty knee injury ruined his career.

I wrote about Joyner recently and talked about what a great player he was. Willie T. was a terrific WLB and made a ton of plays. He finished his career with 37 sacks and 27 INTs. In 1995 Thomas had 7 INTs. Think about that total for a LB. Last year the Eagles had 9 INTs as a team. Insane. Byron Evans is often the overlooked guy. He never made a Pro Bowl despite being one of the best MLBs in the league. Evans was more than just a tackling machine. He could make plays in the passing game. He also was a big time hitter.

Waters was the leading tackler for the great Gang Green defense of 1991. That should tell you all that you need to know. Waters was a crushing hitter and powerful tackler. Dawk was a special player. He was good from 1996-98, but became a great player when Jim Johnson arrived in 1999. Johnson used Dawk like the weapon he was. Offenses paid the price for that.

Allen should be in the Hall of Fame, but that hasn’t happened yet. He picked off 54 passes in his career and went to 6 Pro Bowls. The Eagles played a ton of man coverage with him and that brought out the best in Allen. Vincent was signed as a free agent and became a great Eagle, going to 5 Pro Bowls. There is one moment you should think of when you hear his name.

SPECIAL TEAMS

LS John Hudson
P Jeff Feagles
K Roger Ruzek
RS Vai Sikahema

Hudson was the long snapper from 1991-1995. “Philadelphia Feagles” (one of the great nicknames of all time) played in Philly from 1990-93. His overall career lasted for 22 years. That’s amazing. “Who Framed Roger Ruzek” (another great nickname) was a solid kicker for his era. His numbers pale in comparison to what we expect today. He made 75 percent of his kicks, with a long of 53 yards. Sikahema was the RS for 1992 and 1993. He gave us one of the most memorable moments in Eagles history.

JUST MISSED

There are always guys you hate to leave off.

Keith Byars played RB, FB and even TE. He was a unique talent who gave us some amazing moments. I just thought Turner was the better FB.

William Fuller was an Eagle from 1994-96 and made the Pro Bowl each of those seasons. He is one of my all-time favorite players. He just isn’t Reggie or Clyde.

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A Special LB

Posted: July 6th, 2024 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have had a lot of great linebackers over the years. Chuck Bednarik was a powerhouse player in his era. Bill Bergey was a tackling machine who led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl appearance. Byron Evans and Willie T were stars for the Gang Green defenses of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Jeremiah Trotter was the hammer for Andy Reid’s teams and helped the team get to another Super Bowl.

Seth Joyner was on another level.

Joyner was the left outside LB, or LOLB. Tight ends lined up to his side lot, making him the SAM. Back then, that gave him a lot to do. He first had to play the run. That meant setting the edge to keep the RB contained. Then you wanted to shed the block and get to the ball. On passing downs Joyner would either drop into coverage or blitz. He was outstanding at both. He had 52 career sacks, an impressive total for a 4-3 LB.

Joyner really stood out in coverage. He was a terrific athlete and had the agility to run with backs or TEs out in space. Joyner was instinctive. He also had good ball skills and good hands. He finished his career with 24 INTs. Lavonte David and Bobby Wagner will each get some Hall of Fame consideration. They have a combined 24 years in the league and 25 INTs between them. Brian Urlacher finished his career with 22.

When Joyner went to the Cardinals in the mid-90’s he even played some safety for them due to injuries. He was a unique talent.

Joyner’s skill, athleticism and playmaking ability made him special. His physicality and ferocity made him great. Some players have a chip on their shoulder. Joyner had a boulder on his. He was ultra-competitive and incredibly driven. Being an 8th round pick from UTEP meant there would be no sense of entitlement. Joyner earned everything he got. He fought his way to the top.

Physical ability was only part of the equation. Joyner was also smart. Playing in Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense meant LBs were asked to do a lot. They were given a ton of chances to make plays, but there was pressure to know your assignment and to be able to execute it. Too many people think the 46 Defense was basically an 8-man front. It was so much more than that. The complexity is what made it overwhelming when it was run well.

Joyner prepared hard off the field. He spent a lot of time studying tape so he would be ready to do everything asked of him. Joyner later played for Bud Carson, another defensive coordinator known for complex gameplans. Joyner thrived under Carson as well as Ryan.

It’s unfortunate that Joyner came along when he did. The 3-4 took over the NFL in the 80’s. That meant LBs were either supposed to be pass rushers or tackling machine MLB types. TV loved Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary. Joyner got lost in the shuffle until 1991. He played great in the Monday night classic we know as the House of Pain Game.

Joyner finished with 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 2 sacks as the Eagles limited the top offense in the NFL to just 6 points. That performance got him a lot of attention. Joyner came up second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year. Sports Illustrated actually named Joyner the NFL Player of the Year. 1991 was great for Joyner and Gang Green.

It is crazy to think he only went to three Pro Bowls. That goes back to the league loving pass rushers. Joyner should be in consideration for the Hall of Fame, but sadly that’s not happening. People don’t have any appreciation for a 4-3 OLB anymore.

I hope younger Eagles fans do appreciate Joyner and what a great player he was.

From a personal perspective, Reggie White is my favorite player of all time. Joyner is number two. He was so much fun to watch. Joyner could line up like a DE and rush the passer. He could blitz. He stayed on the field in the nickel defense. Joyner was an outstanding run defender. He was tough, physical and just made things happen.

Aesthetically, he just looked cool. Joyner looked like a badass LB.

 

That dude is getting ready to make something happen. Might be a big hit. He might strip the ball from the RB. Joyner looked the part and he played the part.

I miss the days of the Eagles having great LBs. From 1991 to 1993 the Eagles had Joyner, Byron Evans and William Thomas. That was truly a great trio. The Eagles will find another stud LB at some point. He won’t be as good as Seth Joyner, but not many people are.

Special player.

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