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April 23, 2015

Is Eric Allen the greatest living Eagle?

For years, many considered Concrete Charlie -- former Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik -- the greatest living Eagles player. But that all changed last month when the hall-of-famer passed away at the age of 89, leaving a void in the hearts of those lucky enough to have watched him play.

In addition to Bednarik, the debate for the franchise's all-time greatest player would undoubtedly include names like Brookshire, Brown, Van Buren, and White. Unfortunately, some of the greatest Eagles players are no longer with us, and in the wake of Bednarik's passing, there is no consensus as to whom should replace him as the franchise top player.

With that in mind, we've decided to take a look at some of the greatest living Eagles, the kind of guys Jeff Lurie would want to trot out before a big playoff game -- if/when that time comes -- to help get the fans fired up.

Here's a closer look at cornerback Eric Allen, who is tied for the franchise's all-time lead in interceptions and defensive touchdowns:

BY THE NUMBERS (with the Eagles): 111 G (1988-1994); 5x Pro-Bowler; 1x All-Pro; 34 INT; 5 TDs (including league-high 4 in 1993); 3 INT in five playoff games with Eagles, including one TD; Member of the Eagles Hall of Fame.

HOW HE GOT HERE: The Eagles drafted Allen (Arizona State) in the second round (30th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft. He had five interceptions in his rookie season, but really broke out in his second year, in which he intercepted eight passes and was named an All-Pro and for the first time in his career was voted into the Pro Bowl.

HOW HE LEFT PHILLY: Allen left as a free agent following the 1994 season. By that point, most of his teammates on that ferocious Buddy Ryan defense -- Reggie White, Clyde Simmonds, Seth Joyner, etc. -- had moved on as well. The Eagles had just finished two seasons without a winning record for the first time since prior to Allen's arrival.

WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND: Allen, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, is tied with Brian Dawkins and Bill Bradley for the most interceptions in franchise history (34), the most memorable of which was named one of "The Top 100 Touchdowns in NFL History" by NFL Films. More on that later...

When it comes to Allen's candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, legendary Eagles writer Ray Didinger believes Allen should be in, and had the following to say of his game, revealing the talent behind the numbers:

Allen was that rare athlete who combined great physical ability with a great work ethic. He could have done just fine relying on his natural skills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and he had a thickly muscled upper body and quick hands which allowed him to control receivers at the line of scrimmage. Many players, blessed with the same skill set, would have just relied on that and done quite well.

But what made Allen special was his willingness to work on the mental part of the job. He was a student of the game. He studied film for hours taking notes on every quarterback and receiver, charting their patterns, their moves, their tendencies. Often when he intercepted a pass it was because he saw something in how the quarterback positioned his feet or how the receiver lined up. He knew where the ball was going before it was snapped. At that point, he said, it was just a matter of making the catch.  

SIGNATURE MOMENT: As previously mentioned, the signature moment in Allen's career came in 1993 against the Jets. Randall Cunningham suffered a broken leg earlier in the game, and Boomer Esiason was leading the Jets down the field with a two-point lead and a chance to seal the game. Then, Allen intercepted Esiason on the six, taking it 94 yards for the score and an Eagles win. 

The best part, however, came after the play, when Allen and some of his teammates sprinted over to Cunningham, who was on crutches on the sideline, and handed him the ball, as if to say, "This one's for you."

Check it out: 


  •  •  THE OTHER CANDIDATES    •  •

Bill Bergey, LB

• Harold Carmichael, WR

• Brian Dawkins, S

• LeSean McCoy, RB

• Tommy McDonald, WR

• Donovan McNabb, QB

• Wilbert Montgomery, RB

• Brian Westbrook, RB

• Al Wistert, OL

  •  •  HONORABLE MENTIONS  •  •  •

• Randall Cunningham, QB
• Ron Jaworski, QB
• Seth Joyner, LB
• Pete Retzlaff, WR
• Clyde Simmons, DE
• Troy Vincent, CB