Remembering 1989’s Eagles defense as current version closes in on record

Reggie White #92, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Reggie White #92, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

Stating the 2021 Philadelphia Eagles experienced difficulty in rushing the passer would be a huge understatement. They couldn’t buy a sack, finishing the 17-game campaign with 29. Howie Roseman decided that he had enough, and this past offseason, he went to work, stacking a roster that would do a better job this time around. Voila. His efforts paid off.

The 2022 Eagles are in striking distance of breaking the franchise’s single-season record for quarterback takedowns which currently sits at 62 thanks to the efforts of the 1989 squad. After 15 weeks, they sit alone atop the NFL with 61. Two more would give them the record.

Twelve sacks in their final two games would place them over the 1984 Chicago Bears and give them the NFL record (72). The addition of linebacker Haason Reddick to a unit that was already pretty good has paid off in a major way as three players have already racked up a double-digit sack total, and a fourth needs only one more to join them.

Brandon Graham is healthy, and he’s been a joy to watch. Fellow defensive end Josh Sweat and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave have helped shoulder the load. Philly has behaved like bullies, and they’re pushing opposing offensive linemen around with ease.

The improvement from last year is certainly worth noting. The turnaround has been amazing, and somewhere Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner, Jerome Brown, and Reggie White are smiling (may the last two rest in peace.

The 2022 Eagles’ defense is eerily reminiscent of the 1989 version. Like their predecessors, they’re a special unit.

During the 1989 season, the kelly green-clad Birds were spearheaded by a defensive unit that had its heart set on putting the fear back into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks after a disappointing (by their standards) 42-sack campaign in 1988.

Sure, 42 sacks are nothing to sneeze at, but Buddy Ryan-led defenses are held to a higher standard. One player who wasn’t slacking was the Minister of Defense, Reggie White, who racked up 50 sacks from 1987 to 1989. His leadership and savvy fueled one of the great defenses of its time.

As is the case with the 2022 Eagles, multiple players on the 1989 squad produced a double-digit sack total. There were three to be exact: Clyde Simmons, Reggie White, and Jerome Brown. Simmons led the way that year with 15.5 sacks, White followed with 11.5, and Brown ended the campaign with 10.5 of his own.

The 1989 defensive unit averaged 4.6 sacks per game during the final three weeks of that season. The 2022 Eagles have racked up six sacks or more in every game from Week 13 to Week 16. No quarterback facing Philadelphia wants anything to do with Haason Reddick as he has 14 sacks already on the campaign. Sweat and Hargrave have picked up where they left off last year. They have collected 11 and 10 quarterback takedowns this year respectively.

One more sack would give Brandon Graham ten on the season. That would be a career-high for him and give the Eagles four players with ten sacks or more. That too would set a franchise record,

One more thing that is definitely worth mentioning:  The 1989 Eagles also met the Saints in the game that preceded their regular-season finale. Philadelphia racked up four sacks. Unfortunately, however, they lost that game. This time around, everyone’s expecting a better result. As you know, a win earns the Eagles the regular season’s crown and would ensure the NFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

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