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    Ranking the Best Philadelphia Eagles Defenses of All Time

    The Philadelphia Eagles have fielded several elite defenses over the years. Which were the greatest defenses of all time in franchise history?

    The Philadelphia Eagles were established in 1933 and have fielded some of the most fearsome defenses in NFL history. Several Hall of Fame-caliber defensive players have called Philadelphia home during their careers. Therefore, it’s difficult to decipher which of Philadelphia’s defensive units was truly the greatest in franchise history.

    Several different factors must be considered when creating an all-time ranking.

    The Greatest Defenses in Philadelphia Eagles History

    The Eagles have fielded a top-five scoring defense a whopping 22 times in franchise history. Yet, a strong statistical performance doesn’t always lead to success in the standings. That is why statistics aren’t the only factor in this prestigious list.

    To rank the top 10 Eagles defenses of all time, I incorporated several important factors. Statistical dominance, elite talent, and team success were all heavily weighed while creating these final rankings. Let’s discuss the greatest defenses in Philadelphia’s history!

    10) 2004 Eagles

    The Eagles reached four consecutive NFC Championship Games in the early 2000s. Philadelphia was finally able to win the conference title and get over the hump in 2004. While many remember that team for the addition of star wide receiver Terrell Owens, Philadelphia’s defense was extremely talented and terrifying.

    The Eagles were 10th in the NFL in total yards allowed. They allowed the second-fewest points in the league during the team’s run to the Super Bowl, which is obviously what truly matters. Philadelphia’s secondary was loaded with talent and set the tone.

    Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, Lito Sheppard, and Michael Lewis formed an elite secondary that combined for 12 interceptions in 2004. Philadelphia’s defensive front was full of talent as well, including Jeremiah Trotter, Dhani Jones, Ike Reese, Jevon Kearse, Sam Rayburn, and Corey Simon.

    9) 2022 Eagles

    Similar to Philadelphia’s team in 2004, the Eagles made a run to Super Bowl 57 in 2022, and the team’s defense played a major role in its success. While Jalen Hurts put together an MVP-caliber performance throughout the season on offense, Philadelphia’s defense also showed flashes of dominance.

    In 2022, the defense was eighth in total points allowed and second in total yards allowed. The most intimidating aspect of the Eagles’ defense was the elite pass rush, which included four total players who recorded double-digit sacks.

    Haason Reddick recorded 16 sacks, while Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave, and Brandon Graham each recorded 11. Fletcher Cox was fifth on the team with seven sacks of his own, which showcases how deep Philadelphia’s pass rush truly was.

    Ultimately, the team’s secondary was put in tough situations in Super Bowl 57 and fell short due to poor communication and questionable play-calling.

    8) 2008 Eagles

    Although the Eagles were dominant during the early 2000s, they struggled to bounce back following their loss in Super Bowl 39. They climbed back to the NFC Championship Game in 2008, largely due to the team’s elite defense. Philadelphia was fourth in total points allowed and third in total yards allowed.

    MORE: Ranking the Best Philadelphia Eagles Offenses of All Time

    While many of the same pieces that contributed to Philadelphia’s defense in 2004 were still around, there were a few notable new faces. Stewart Bradley replaced Trotter at middle linebacker and led Philadelphia’s defense with 108 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

    Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel joined the team in 2008 and was a game-changer for Philadelphia’s secondary. Samuel recorded four interceptions while returning one for a touchdown. Trent Cole and Darren Howard established themselves as fearsome pass rushers along the defensive front as well.

    7) 2002 Eagles

    In case it isn’t evident by now, Philadelphia’s defensive units in the early 2000s were incredible. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson arrived in Philadelphia in 1999 and helped transform the team into one of the most feared units in the NFL. Johnson unfortunately passed away in 2009, but he left his mark as a legend.

    Dawkins was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Johnson’s arrival, as he immediately took a massive step in his scheme. In 1999, Dawkins was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. In 2002, he might have had the best season of his career.

    Once again, Philadelphia’s defense was regarded as one of the best units in the NFL. The Eagles ranked fourth in total yards allowed and second in total points allowed.

    Dawkins was named a first-team All-Pro for the second consecutive season, recording 95 total tackles, five forced fumbles, three sacks, and two interceptions.

    6) 1980 Eagles

    Before the Eagles went on a string of deep playoff runs in the early 2000s, they enjoyed an impressive run under head coach Dick Vermeil. In 1980, the Eagles went to Super Bowl 15, ultimately failing to defeat the Oakland Raiders in the big game. Philadelphia’s defense was a major driving force behind the team’s success.

    The 1980 Eagles allowed the fewest points and the second-fewest total yards in the NFL. Philadelphia’s dominant defense was powered by the team’s defensive front, as Claude Humphrey recorded 15.5 sacks, and Carl Hairston recorded nine.

    5) 2001 Eagles

    Surprise! Another one of Philadelphia’s dominant defensive units from the early 2000s has made the list. This could be the most impressive group, having allowed the second-fewest points in the league en route to a trip to the NFC Championship Game.

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    Philadelphia’s linebacker duo of Trotter and Mike Caldwell formed one of the best groups in the NFL, each recording over 100 total tackles. Both recorded three sacks as well.

    The 2001 campaign also marked the first year that Dawkins was named a first-team All-Pro.

    4) 2017 Eagles

    While many will likely be disappointed by the ranking of Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl-winning defense, it’s a fair placement. In 2017, the Eagles’ defense ranked fourth in both total points allowed and total yards allowed. Despite those numbers, Philadelphia’s defense wasn’t necessarily feared.

    Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham were both phenomenal players and leaders, there’s no denying that. But Philadelphia’s defensive unit lacked true star power, as just two defensive players were named to the Pro Bowl, and none were named a first-team All-Pro.

    3) 1981 Eagles

    Following a disappointing loss in Super Bowl 15, the Eagles bounced back by somehow playing even better on defense. Although the team’s overall record was worse, the defense took a step forward in 1981 — finishing first in both points and yards allowed.

    Philadelphia’s defense was elite at taking the ball away in 1981, as seven different players recorded two or more interceptions. As a starting safety, Brenard Wilson led the Eagles with five interceptions. Roynell Young and Herm Edwards had combined for seven interceptions as the starting cornerbacks for the Eagles as well.

    2) 1991 Eagles

    Although the New York Jets are often referred to as “Gang Green,” that nickname once belonged to a dominant Philadelphia defense. In 1991, the Eagles’ defense was nicknamed “Gang Green” due to the team’s ability to rush the passer and force turnovers.

    Philadelphia allowed the fewest total yards in 1991, while also allowing the fifth-fewest points. The Eagles recorded 55 sacks and forced a whopping 48 turnovers. While the team finished with a 10-6 record and failed to reach the playoffs, Philadelphia’s defense was one of the best units in franchise history.

    Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Eric Allen, and Jerome Brown were all named to the Pro Bowl in 1991. White, Simmons, and Brown were all named first-team All-Pros.

    1) 1949 Eagles

    Throughout franchise history, several elite defenses have played in Philadelphia. But only one dominant unit was able to put it all together and end the season by winning it all. That’s exactly what the Eagles did in 1949.

    On the way to winning the team’s second consecutive league championship, Philadelphia’s defense was the best unit in the NFL. In 1949, the Eagles’ defense finished first in both points and yards allowed. Philadelphia allowed just 134 points en route to losing just one game and ultimately winning it all.

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