When you have one of the most popular players in franchise history who happens to be the best player at his position in franchise history … you have Brian Dawkins.
Dawkins is a legendary Eagle, a leader like no other, who patrolled the secondary from his safety position. Dawkins played with relentless passion and power, looking for passes to defend and opponents to hit.
He usually found both.
He is, in a landslide, the best Eagles safety ever.
TOP 10 BEST EAGLES SAFETIES OF ALL TIME
10. RAY ELLIS (1981-85)
Ellis might be best known as the tenth-best Eagle safety for his massive hit on Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, late in the 1984 season. Dorsett was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
- Ellis was a 12th-round pick in 1981.
- There were 332 players drafted in 1981 and Ellis was the 331st.
“People had said some things to me earlier about how perhaps I would go in the middle of the draft, and I ended up going the next to last pick,” Ellis told philadelphiaeagles.com. “But I just felt blessed just to be drafted. It’s a very unique thing that you can add to your résumé that very few people ever in life can say.”
He played five seasons in Philly. In 73 games, he had 12 interceptions. He became the starter in his fourth season after the 11-year career of Randy Logan ended.
9. DAMON MOORE (1999-2001)
Moore looked to be on his way to stardom when a torn ACL in the 2001 season NFC Championship Game all but ended his career.
In his brief career, he had the look of a big-play guy.
- In five postseason games, he had three interceptions — tied for most in Eagles history.
- He had two picks in 2001 against Tampa Bay’s Brad Johnson in a 31-9 Eagles playoff win.
- One pick went for a 59-yard touchdown.
- He also had an interception in a 33-19 playoff win at Chicago.
Moore is remembered for a huge play he made against the Giants in 2001. The Giants ran a lateral trick play and Rod Dixon was on a 76-yard run that if he scored would take the NFC East title away from the Eagles. Moore raced across the field and tripped up Dixon at the 4-yard line.
Moore played 48 games in three seasons with the Eagles. He had five interceptions and 192 tackles. He played only one more season, with the Bears, playing six games and making one start.
8. MICHAEL LEWIS (2002-06)
Lewis played five seasons with the Eagles after being drafted in the second round out of Colorado.
The eighth-best Eagles safety all-time was known as a hitter on the 2004 Super Bowl team. Make no mistake, if you had the ball near Lewis, he would hit you.
- In 76 games, he had nine interceptions but an impressive 394 tackles, 325 of which were solo tackles.
- He was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in the Super Bowl year.
- He had 88 tackles and one interception in 2004.
7. QUINTIN MIKELL (2003-10)
Mikell was easy to be overlooked when he became a full-time starter in 2008, playing alongside Dawkins at safety, Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel at cornerback. But Mikell established himself as a force with a career-high 169 tackles.
Mikell went from an ace special teams player to outstanding safety who was known for stopping the run and his hard-hitting.
When Dawkins retired in 2008, Mikell was the safety who was counted on to stop long gains.
“I felt like I was a guy that took every opportunity that was given and I made something of it,” Mikell told philadelphiaeagles.com. “I was a guy that didn’t get a lot of pub and lack of a better word, respect. Not getting drafted and all that stuff.
“I did it the hard way and ended up making the team, becoming a starter, being a special teams MVP, which I’m very proud of, making it to the Pro Bowl and making it to the Super Bowl.”
- He was on the 2004 Super Bowl team and the Eagles played in three NFC title games during his tenure.
- Made second-team All-Pro in 2008 and 2010.
- Made the Pro Bowl in 2009.
- He played in 123 games over eight years and had 10 interceptions and 448 tackles.
6. ANDRE WATERS (1984-93)
Waters was an all-time favorite Eagle for his devastating hits in the secondary. He was called “Dirty Waters” for his violent hits that some believed were borderline dirty.
- Waters was an undrafted free agent from Cheyney State.
- In 1984, the NFL Draft had 12 rounds and no one picked Waters, who went on to play 137 games in 10 years with Philly.
- Waters was an important part of the Buddy Ryan defenses and the 1991 Gang Green defense that was the NFL’s best.
- He was a Ryan favorite for his hard-nosed play and full-speed engine.
Waters had 15 interceptions … and the grudging respect of many receivers who played against him.
5. Randy Logan (1973-83)
Logan stabilized the defense in his 11-year career as the Eagles rose from a bad team to the Super Bowl in 1980. He was second-team All-Pro in the Super Bowl season.
- Logan had 23 interceptions, 10th in team history.
- He twice made the Pro Bowl.
- CBSSports.com selected an all-time Eagles 53-man roster in 2020.
- Logan was picked as one of the backup safeties (with Bill Bradley) behind Dawkins and Malcolm Jenkins.
He missed only one game in his career, almost an impossibility in the NFL. He played in 159 consecutive games, second in team history to Harold Carmichael and Jon Dorenbos (162 games).
4. Malcolm Jenkins (2014-19)
Jenkins only played six seasons with Philadelphia, after playing five years in New Orleans — but he had the impact of a long-time veteran. After on 6 years, he was still an easy choice for our fourth-best Eagles safety ever.
- On and off the field, Jenkins was the leader of the defense.
- That leadership was a factor in the Eagles winning the 2017 Super Bowl.
“He’s got a lot of profound messages as you’ve seen,” coach Doug Pederson said in 2018 as the Eagles prepared for Super Bowl 52.
“He speaks from the heart and he speaks truth. So that’s been a positive.”
Jenkins had one of the biggest hits in team history when he destroyed Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl 52, knocking him out of the game. Cooks caught a pass from Tom Brady in the second quarter, danced around looking for more yardage, turned, and was hit on his blindside by Jenkins.
Jenkins made three Pro Bowls, had 11 interceptions in 96 games and scored four touchdowns.
3. BILL BRADLEY (1969-76)
Bradley was an outstanding safety and easily the third-best Eagles safety on the list, who led the NFL in interceptions in 1971 (11) and 1972 (9). He was the first player to lead the league in interceptions in consecutive years.
- Bradley finished with 34 interceptions, tying him with Eric Allen and Dawkins for most in team history.
- He made the Pro Bowl three consecutive years (1971-73) and twice was first-team All-Pro.
- Bradley earned three straight Pro Bowl selections (1971 to 1973) and was a two-time first-team All-Pro (1971, 1972).
2. WES HOPKINS (1983-93)
Hopkins was a second-round draft pick who had a legendary career with the Eagles making him our second-best Eagles safety on the list.
He was a leader of the Birds’ Gang Green defense in 1991 that finished first against the run, first against the pass and first in total defense.
Hopkins was a devastating hitter who made the middle of the field a treacherous place for receivers.
- He had 30 interceptions, fifth-most in Eagles history.
- He spent his entire career in Philly after being drafted from SMU.
- In 1985, he made the Pro Bowl and was All-Pro.
- He died in 2018 at age 57.
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie released this statement when Hopkins died:
“Wes Hopkins is one of the best safeties in the history of our franchise and played a major role in the team’s success during his time here in Philadelphia. He was well-respected among his teammates and coaches, not only because of the way he played the game and what he was able to accomplish on the field, but also because of the way he carried himself and the type of leader he was.”
1. BRIAN DAWKINS (1996-08)
During his brilliant Eagles career, there was no doubt Dawkins was the leader of the football team. Dawkins wasn’t just a Hall of Fame-caliber player and the best Eagles safety in franchise history, he might have been the most popular Eagles player ever.
Dawk played during one of the best stretches of Eagles football in history. During his 13-year tenure, the Eagles went to five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.
- Dawkins was a second-round pick out of Clemson who became a starter as a rookie.
- Played 183 games, the second-most in team history behind kicker David Akers.
- Tied for the most interceptions in team history with 34.
- Forced 32 fumbles, the most in team history.
- He also had 21 sacks, the most from the secondary.
- Dawkins was a first-team All-Pro choice five times and he made nine Pro Bowls.
- He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
The Eagles did not re-sign Dawkins in 2009 and he finished his career with Denver.
“A guy that’s played at a high level for as long as he has … his numbers … there’s nobody like him,” Broncos cornerback and teammate Champ Bailey said when Dawk retired after three seasons in Denver.
His pregame entrance was legendary — he emerged from the smoke-filled tunnel with biceps flexing and moving like his favorite comic book avatar, Wolverine of the X-Men. He was Weapon X and he was the best Eagles safety who ever played the game.