The Eagles don’t have another scheduled practice until the end of July and free agency seems to have ended for the club. Barring any unforeseen news, we won’t hear from the team for at least a month. So while we have some down-time, it’s time to grade out the best Eagles at each position over the last two decades. The Philadelphia Eagles have been one of the winningest teams in football over the last 20 years with two Super Bowl appearances, one title, and six conference championship appearances.
The linebacker position may have been ignored for several years, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great players. Let’s take a look at the top five.
5. Connor Barwin
One thing you’ll notice is that Eagles linebackers don’t usually stay long with the team. Barwin only played four seasons in Philadelphia but he became a fan favorite almost instantly.
When Chip Kelly and Billy Davis transitioned the Eagles into a 3-4 defense, Connor Barwin was brought in to rush the passer and be a nuisance on the outside. He did just that. In 2014, Barwin logged 14.5 sacks and was named a second team All-Pro.
His ability to rush the passer and have the speed to handle the run was essential for Philadelphia. Barwin came back to the organization and is now in a front office role. He belongs on this list.
4. Mychal Kendricks
I will be honest, this was one of the toughest rankings I’ve had to do because I was forced to choose between Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks.
I chose Kendricks because of the position he played and his importance for the team during the playoff runs. Kendricks and Hicks were both very good players, but played two different positions. Hicks and another linebacker on this list were more of an inside presence, while Kendricks speed and athleticism was key for the outside.
He never made a pro-bowl or All-Pro and got into legal trouble after he left Philadelphia, but the former second round pick was incredibly important to the team. Hicks not being able to stay healthy for the Super Bowl run is a big factor into why Kendricks is on this list over him.
3. Nigel Bradham
At his best, Bradham was a tremendous player in the late 2010’s for the Eagles. A great combination of size and speed, Bradham gave the Eagles a very important identity the minute he walked into the locker room.
He recorded over 80 tackles in his first three seasons in Philadelphia and it allowed the Eagles pass rush to get home game after game. Bradham’s 2017 and ’18 season were excellent because he wasn’t a liability in pass coverage yet, but still got the job done against the run.
Jim Schwartz’s scheme didn’t really call for top tier linebackers but Nigel Bradham certainly played that way in huge playoff games against the Falcons, Bears and Vikings.
2. DeMeco Ryans
Man, I loved DeMeco Ryans when he was in Philadelphia. He never made a pro-bowl, or an all-pro, but on a defense that was so thin on talent, he was arguably the best player.
In 2013, DeMeco Ryans totaled over 120 tackles, picked off two passes and recorded four sacks. It’s still one of the best years a linebacker in Philadelphia has had in the 2000’s. The tough part of the early 2010’s was that the defense always had just 1-2 really good players and that was it. When Ryans got to Philadelphia, the team was in a major transition, but he made it a lot easier.
DeMeco Ryans only played four seasons with the team, but I always wonder just how great he would’ve been if he played on the 2017 team.
1. Jeremiah Trotter
The Axe-man. The best linebacker the Eagles have had in 20 years. Jeremiah Trotter was a no-brainer here.
A first team All-Pro finish in 2000, followed by a second-team season in 2001, Trotter was with Philadelphia for four seasons before he left for Washington in free agency. If we based his first four years with the team alone, Trotter is the best.
In 2004, Jeremiah Trotter came back to Philadelphia and became the starter midway through that magical season. In just nine games, Trotter became the force Eagle fans remembered of him and helped the team solidify their defense into one of the best in the league.
Trotter is one of four linebackers in Eagles history to earn four or more Pro Bowl invitations, joining Chuck Bednarik, Bill Bergey and others.
You knew his playing days in Philadelphia were over in the 2006 divisional round, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Trotter was by far the best linebacker the Eagles have had in recent history.
Mandatory Credit: Drew Hallowell/Icon SMI