The 10 greatest rookie seasons in Eagles history
Which Eagle tight ends were first-team all-pros as rookies? What Eagle wide receiver was third in the NFL in TD catches as a rookie? What Eagle set an NFL record that still stands for scoring by a rookie? Eagles rookies have had some monsters seasons over the years, and here's a look at 10 of the greatest seasons in franchise history by rookies.
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DeSean Jackson put the league on notice very quickly, catching a 47-yard bomb from Donovan McNabb against the Rams just two seconds into his first NFL game. Jackson wound up going for 106 and 110 yards in his first two career games, and to this day only two other NFL players have had 100 yards in each of their first two games (Harlon Hill in 1956, Will Fuller in 2016). D-Jack went on to catch 62 passes for a franchise-record 912 yards as a rookie in 2008, breaking tight end Keith Jackson’s mark of 869 set 20 years earlier. Jackson, a second-round pick out of Cal, was second among NFL rookies that year behind Eddie Royal of the Broncos. It was the last time Royal had a better season than D-Jack.
Keith Jackson caught only 62 passes in his entire college football career at Oklahoma and only 16 as a senior, but after the Eagles made him the 13th pick in the 1988 draft he showed what kind of receiver he was with 81 catches, 869 yards and six touchdowns playing with Randall Cunningham as a rookie. Three decades later, the 81 catches remain an NFL rookie tight end record and the 869 yards are third-most ever by a rookie, behind Mike Ditka (1,076 in 1961) and Jeremy Shockey (894 in 2002). The 81 catches were an Eagles tight end record until Zach Ertz caught 116 passes last year. Jackson remains one of only six players in NFL history — tight ends or receivers — with at least 80 catches, 850 yards and six TDs as a rookie.
Calvin Williams was the third receiver the Eagles took in the 1990 draft, but he began his career with a splash, catching nine touchdowns as a rookie. He was the first rookie in six years with nine TD catches and that remains to this day the 18th-most ever by an NFL rookie. Williams led all NFL rookies in TD catches that year, and teammate Fred Barnett was second with eight. The Eagles remain the only NFL team that’s ever had two rookies with eight TD catches. Overall, Williams finished tied for third in the NFL in TD catches, behind only Jerry Rice and Andre Rison.
Carson Wentz is the only rookie quarterback in Eagles history to start a full season. Only John Reaves (seven starts in 1972) and Davey O’Brien (eight starts in 1939) have also started more than six games. Wentz completed 62 percent of his passes with 16 TDs, 14 interceptions and 3,782 yards in 2016. He ranks fourth in NFL history among rookie QBs in passing yards, seventh in completion percentage and first with 379 completions. The 3,782 yards wound up only 134 short of Donovan McNabb’s 2008 franchise record of 3,916 and remains his career high.
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Eric Allen recorded his first career interception off Vinny Testaverde late in the third quarter of his first NFL game and before long he had established himself as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. Allen had five INTs that year and remains one of only two non-lineman in Eagles history to start 16 games as a rookie. Allen’s five INTs are the most by any Eagles rookie over the last 40 years and were second-most among rookies in 1988, behind only Erik McMillian of the Jets (who briefly became an Eagle in 1993).
Corey Simon was the sixth pick in the 2000 draft, and he played like it, recording 9 ½ sacks as a rookie. That was only 1 ½ short of the NFL record (to this day) for rookie defensive tackles, one-time Eagle Keith Millard’s 11 for the Vikings in 1985, and it remains fifth-most ever by a rookie tackle. It was also fifth-most of any NFL defensive tackle in 2000. Simon never matched those 9 ½ sacks, but that remains the most ever by an Eagles rookie, 3 ½ more than Derrick Burgess had in 2001.
Tra Thomas was named the Eagles’ starting left tackle as soon as they made him the 11th pick in the 1998 draft. Then offensive line coach Juan Castillo brought the beat writers covering the draft into a film room at the Vet and enthusiastically narrated a Thomas highlight film from college, screaming, “BAM!!! POW!!!” as Thomas flattened poor opposing pass rushers. Thomas didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until 2001, but his emergence was one of the few bright spots during an otherwise lost 1998 season.
Cody Parkey? Whatever happened to that guy? Four years before the double-doink gave the Eagles a playoff win over the Bears in Chicago, Parkey had a tremendous rookie season for the Eagles. After they acquired Parkey from the Colts a few weeks into his rookie training camp (for running back David Fluellen), Parkey made 32 of 36 field goal attempts in 2014. His 150 points remains an NFL rookie record and an Eagles record, and his 89 percent accuracy is sixth-highest ever by a rookie. Parkey kicked for the Browns in 2016, Dolphins in 2017 and Bears in 2018. He remains out of work this summer even though his 83.9 percent career accuracy is 21st-highest in NFL history.
In 1973, Charle Young became the first rookie tight end in NFL history to earn first-team all-pro honors. Since then, only Keith Jackson of the Eagles in 1988 and Jeremy Shockey with the Giants in 2002 have matched him. Young, the sixth pick out of USC in 1973, was 55-for-854 and six TDs in 14 games in 1973. Young was fourth in the NFL in both catches and yards that year, first among tight ends in both categories. Today, nearly half a century after his rookie year, those 854 yards are fourth-most ever by an NFL rookie tight end.
Bobby Walston was only a 14th-round pick in 1951, but he caught 31 passes for 512 yards and eight touchdowns that year despite playing on a team without an effective quarterback. Walston’s eight TD catches were third-most in the league that year and will go down in the record books as the fifth-most ever as a rookie by a player drafted in the 14th round or later. Walston led all rookies that year in receiving yards and TDs and was second to Ray Pelfrey of the Packers in catches. He also made six field goals. He’s one of four players in NFL history with six TDs and six field goals in the same season.
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