An Underrated Defender vs. an All-Purpose Star

John McMullen

Time has a way of fogging the memory and for those who don’t have the luxury of experience, history class is elective, not automated.

To the current Eagles fan the best No. 43 in franchise history is obvious but the sentiment is incorrect.

While Darren Sproles is the best overall player to ever wear the jersey number for the Eagles, much of the damage he did in his borderline Hall of Fame career (at least if the voters valued return skill) was done elsewhere. The most accomplished No. 43 for Philadelphia is one of the more underrated defenders in the organization’s history, cornerback Roynell Young.

Our jersey-inspired countdown kickoff rolls on with 43 days until the presumptive 2020 season opener on Sept. 13 against the newly-minted Washington Football Team.

Current number 43:

Unassigned. Sproles announced his retirement in December of last year, spending the final six seasons of a 14-year career with the Eagles. The last three were marred by injuries, however, and Sproles played in just 15 of a possible 48 regular-season games. That said, he’s so well-respected in the organization that the Eagles hired him as a consultant to the personnel department in February.

Top 3 to wear number 43:

3. Damon Moore. Moore was a fourth-round pick out of Ohio State in 1999, Andy Reid’s first season with the Eagles.

At 215 pounds he had the frame of a strong safety and was a starter by his sophomore season in Philadelphia but lasted only two seasons in the role.

By 2002, Moore was in Chicago and he was out of the NFL by the next season. Overall, 53 of Moore’s 59 professional games were in Philadelphia. He’s perhaps best known for picking off three passes in the Eagles’ 2001 playoff run to the NFC Championship Game, including two and a pick-six in a 31-9 win over Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.

2. Darren Sproles. One of the great all-purpose players in NFL history, Sproles is fifth-all time in total yards when you combine rushing, receiving, and returns, as well as the all-time single-season leader when he piled up 2,696 in 2011 as a member of the New Orleans Saints.

Sproles holds franchise records for all three organizations he played for: kickoff return yardage (the then-San Diego Chargers), the all-purpose yards in a season (New Orleans), and most career punt returns for touchdowns for the Eagles where he is tied with DeSean Jackson with four.

He arrived in Philadelphia in 2014, acquired from the Saints for a fifth-round pick, and settled in as a very good change-of-pace back and perhaps the best punt returners in the NFL. Sproles led the NFL in PR yards and PR touchdowns in both 2014 and 2015 and also led the league in PR average in 2014.

Over his time in Philadelphia, Sproles finished with 1,331 yards rushing, 1,459 receiving, 1,355 on punt returns, and 56 more on kickoff returns.

1. Roynell Young. A former first-round pick out of Alcorn State in 1980, Young was inserted as the starting left corner from the get-go and spent most of the next nine years in that position.

As a rookie, he played in Super Bowl XV and was a Pro-Bowl selection by his second season. By the time his nearly-decade long stint in Philadelphia was over, Young had started 114 of the 122 games with the organization when you include the playoffs and intercepted 26 passes (three in the postseason).

Young is 10th in team history with the 23 regular-season INTs and only 11 behind the franchise standard which is shared by Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins, Eric Allen, and Bill Bradley.

Runner-up:

Roger Vick. It’s not the surname that makes Roger Vick notable, it was his position and where he was taken in the NFL Draft. Vick was a 240-pound fullback out of Texas A&M when the New York Jets selected him in the first round back in 1987. It might have been the epicenter of the Jets’ fans seemingly annual disappointment when first-round selections were announced.

He lasted only three seasons with the NYJ and finished his career in 1990 playing 14 games with the Eagles.

Others: Jack Hinkle, William Jefferson, James Lankas, Jim Parmer, Robert Smith, Walt Kowalczyk, Ralph Heck, Al Davis, James McAlister, Erik McMillan, Randy Kinder, and Leonard Weaver.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SBNation Radio. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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