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

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