Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Receivers

Here are the Eagles’ top receivers from 1966-75. Unless otherwise mentioned in the text below, all the other significant pass catchers were running backs.

The Eagles starting receivers in 1966 were Pete Retzlaff (TE), Fred Hill (SE) and Ron Goodwin (FL). Retzlaff’s entire career (1956-66) was as a starter for the Eagles, first as a split end before moving to tight end in 1963. Hill played his entire career (1965-71) with the Eagles, and in 1966 filled in at SE for Ray Poage, the Eagles split end in ’64 and ’65 who missed the ’66 season with a knee injury. Goodwin also played his entire career (1963-68) with the Eagles, and was their starting flanker from 1963-66. Rookie Ben Hawkins was the #4 receiver, almost equaling Goodwin’s catches.

A new group of receivers took over in 1967. Hawkins led the team in receptions from his flanker spot, and was joined by newly-acquired veterans Gary Ballman (SE) and Mike Ditka (TE). Hawkins played for the Eagles from 1966-74, and was a starting wideout every season except his first and last. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1967. Ballman played for the Eagles from 1967-72, and was a starter every season but his last. After 2 years as a split end, he moved to TE in 1969. Ditka sandwiched his 2 seasons with the Eagles (’67-’68) between stints with the Bears and Cowboys. He was the starting TE in ’67 (although missing 5 games), but was 2nd-team in 1968.

Fred Hill replaced Ditka at tight end in 1968, joining Hawkins and Ballman in the starting lineup.

In 1969, Harold Jackson joined the Eagles (acquired from the Rams in the Bob Brown trade) and immediately became their best player. Jackson played 4 seasons with the Eagles before returning to the Rams in the Roman Gabriel trade. He led the NFL in receiving yards in ’69 and ’72. With the addition of Jackson, Ballman moved to tight end.

All 3 starters (Jackson, Hawkins, Ballman) returned for 1970, although curiously, Ballman led the team in receptions.

With Ballman injured for much of 1971, rookie Harold Carmichael joined the starting group, as the tight end. Carmichael played for the Eagles from 1971-83, and was a starting WR in all but his first 2 seasons.

Jackson, Hawkins, and Carmichael were the top 3 receivers in 1972, although Carmichael split his time between TE and WR. Kent Kramer (an Eagle from 1971-74) was the nominal #1 tight end, although a distant 6th in receptions.

After leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yards in 1972, Jackson was traded back to the Rams. No big loss – Carmichael stepped in as the Eagles’ #1 wide receiver and led the NFL in receiving yards in 1973.

He was joined by #1 draft pick Charlie Young at TE and rookie Don Zimmerman at WR. Young was the Birds’ starting tight end for his first 4 seasons, then was traded to the Rams (see a pattern?) for QB Ron Jaworski. Replacing Hawkins in the lineup, Zimmerman was a serviceable starter for 2 seasons, and a backup for 2 more.

The Eagles used the same 3 receivers in 1974, then 2nd-year man Charlie Smith replaced Zimmerman as the #2 wide receiver in 1975. Smith was a starter from 1975-81.

1969 Receivers:

WR: 29 - Harold Jackson, 18 - Ben Hawkins, 13 - Chuck Hughes, 12 - Kent Lawrence
TE: 85 - Gary Ballman, 86 - Fred Hill, 87 - Fred Brown

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Running Backs

Here are the Eagles' 12 primary running backs from 1966 to 1975. There were quite a few others (such as 1967 #1 draft pick/bust Harry Jones), but these below are all the starters.

We start off with the tandem of Timmy Brown and Earl Gros. Brown played for the Eagles from 1960-67, and was their starting halfback from '62 to '66. Gros was the starting fullback for his 3 seasons with the Eagles (1964-66).

After backing up Brown and Gros in 1966, Izzy Lang and Tom Woodeshick took over as the starting backfield for '67 and '68. Woodeshick led the team in rushing from 1967 to 1969.

Leroy Keyes was the Eagles' #1 pick in 1969. [After an 0-12 start, the Birds won their last 2 games, thus blowing the chance to draft O.J. Simpson.] After a serviceable rookie season, Keyes had an awful 2nd year, then was moved to strong safety for his final 2 seasons with the Eagles. Leroy was 2nd in rushing behind Woodeshick in 1969.

After 2 seasons as the #3 back, Cyril Pinder led the Eagles in rushing in 1970, teaming with rookie fullback Lee Bouggess. Woodeshick and rookie Larry Watkins rounded out the top 4.

Pinder was traded away after the 1970 season, leaving Bouggess as the team's top rusher in 1971. He was joined by halfback Ron Bull, who played his final season with the Eagles after playing for the Bears from 1962-70. As in 1970, Woodeshick and Watkins were the 3rd and 4th backs.

With Bouggess lost for the season due to injury, Bull retired, and Woodeshick traded, the Eagles featured a new set of backs in 1972. Rookie Ron "Po" James led the team in rushing, with Larry Watkins sharing the fullback job with ex-Saint Tony Baker.

James' time at the top was short, with rookie Tom Sullivan taking over the starting halfback job for the next 3 seasons. Sullivan would lead the team in rushing from 1973-75. Norm Bulaich joined the team in 1973, and was the starting fullback for his 2 seasons in Philly ('73-'74). James was the #3 back for the '73 and '74 seasons.

In 1975, Sullivan had a new running mate: Art Malone was brought in from Atlanta as the fullback. Rookie James McAlister was #3 with Po James at #4.


When Dick Vermeil was hired for the 1976 season, he cleaned house at several positions, including running back. The only holdovers from 1975 were Sullivan and McAllister. Rookies Mike Hogan and Herb Lusk were in the mix, plus newly-acquired veterans Dave Hampton and Bill Olds.

1969 Running backs:

37 - Tom Woodeshick, 20 - Leroy Keyes, 22 - Cyril Pinder, 33 - Ronny Blye, 23 - Harry Jones