It's three weeks until the Eagles’ season-opener in Washington which means the jersey countdown to kickoff reaches one of the great cornerbacks in franchise history, potential future Hall of Famer Eric Allen at No. 21.
A second-round pick out of Arizona State in 1988, Allen played the first seven seasons of a 14-year career at right cornerback for the Eagles, as the top coverage man on some of the most legendary defenses the organization has ever had.
Five of Allen’s six Pro Bowl selections came with the Eagles and all three of his All-Pro recognitions did as well. He is a member of both the organization’s Hall of Fame and 75th Anniversary Team and every bit the star as some more high-profile members of the late 1980s-early 1990s Eagles defenses which included names like Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, Andre Waters, and Wes Hopkins.
Allen’s 54 career interceptions - 34 of which came in Philadelphia, a number tied with Brian Dawkins and Bill Bradley for most interceptions in Eagles history - is 21st all-time in NFL lore and is the only player in league history to run back three-or-more interceptions for touchdowns in two seasons (1993 with the Eagles and 2000 with Oakland).
Allen was also an ironman, missing only one game over his seven seasons with the Eagles and starting 110 of the 111 regular-season games he did play.
There are only six players in league history with at least 50 INTs and eight pick-sixes like Allen and three are in the Hall of Fame (Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, and Aeneas Williams), while one is a slam-dunk when eligible in 2021, Charles Woodson. Darren Sharper was also on his way to the HOF until being sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple rapes and drug-related charges in 2016.
A San Diego native, Allen tried coaching out in 2019 as the defensive backs coach for the San Diego Fleet of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football.
Current number 21:
Jalen Mills. Mills made the shift from cornerback to safety this season and wanted a new start with his uniform number, moving from No. 31 to 21.
The 2016 seventh-round pick out of LSU has developed into a leader in the secondary and is penciled in as a starter next to Rodney McLeod on the back end in what is shaping up as perhaps the most talented secondary in the Doug Pederson/Jim Schwartz era.
Top 3 to wear number 21:
3. Joe Scarpati. Perhaps best known for being the holder on Tom Dempsey’s then-record 63-yard field goal in 1970 with New Orleans in his final professional season, Scarpati was also a starting safety for six seasons with the Eagles (1964-1969). In 1966 Scarpati led the entire NFL in interception return yardage, piling up 182 yards on eight picks.
Scarpati started 77 of the 82 games he played for the Eagles and picked off 24 passes, returning three for touchdowns.
2. Bobby Taylor. Another of the top corners in Eagles history, Taylor arrived as a second-round pick out of Notre Dame in 1995 and was the starter at right corner for most of his eight seasons in town after a four-game learning curve as a rookie, topping out in 2002 when he was named a first-team All-Pro.
The back end of Taylor’s run with the Eagles coincided with Andy Reid’s arrival and four consecutive playoff berths from 2000 through 2003
The lengthy Taylor started 109 of the 119 regular-season games with the Eagles and intercepted 19 passes while adding six forced fumbles and 11 fumble recoveries. He added two more INTs in 12 playoff games.
1. Eric Allen. See Above.
Runner-up. Patrick Robinson: Robinson spent only one season in Philadelphia but what a season it was as the Eagles won Super Bowl LII.
It looked bleak for Robinson early, a veteran who came in on a one-year, prove-it deal. He was performing so poorly as an outside CB in training camp that many speculated on his release.
Instead, Jim Schwartz moved him inside and things clicked as Robinson proved to be among the best slot CBs in the NFL that season. His biggest play came in the NFC Championship Game, a pick-six that ignited the Lincoln Financial Field crowd to a frenzied, fever pitch.
The noise was so deafening that it was heard across the Delaware River in South Jersey and the play ripped out the heart of the Vikings who were up 7-0 before the play and lost 38-7.
Others: James Zyntell, Les Maynard, Paul Cuba, John Kusko, Herschel Stockton, Allison White, Chuck Cherundolo, William Boedeker, Al Pollard, Jim Carr, Ray Jones, Jackie Allen, Wes Chesson, Al Clark, John Sciarra, Evan Cooper, Matt Ware, William James, Joselio Hanson, David Sims, Roc Carmichael, Jerome Couplin, Leodis McKelvin, and Ronald Darby.
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 SportMap Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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