Will we see more of Greg Ward in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 season?
In less than three seasons, Greg Ward Jr. went from an undrafted free agent to the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad to the shortlived AAF (Alliance of American Football) and back to Philly’s practice squad and, eventually, the starting lineup. The 25-year-old led the Eagles’ wide receivers in receptions and receiving yards during the last six weeks of the season. His 28 catches, 254 receiving yards, and his game-winning touchdown in the nation’s capital were better than the numbers that second-round selection J.J. Arcega-Whiteside put up over the course of a full 16-game rookie season.
The former University of Houston quarterback finally got a chance to prove himself in Philly and took full advantage of the opportunity. Not only did he put up a solid stat line but most of his catches came in key situations. 18 of his 28 catches were for first downs.
In Week 14, three of his four catches came either in the fourth quarter or overtime and went for eight yards or more. The next week, he caught five passes in the fourth quarter, four of which were for nine yards or more. The one that wasn’t over nine yards was the four-yard game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left. Four of those five catches also came on the final drive of the game.
Against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, his 38-yard catch on a beautiful wheel route set up the Miles Sanders touchdown which helped this team to a 17-9 victory and put them in prime position to clinch the NFC East one week later. Ward was the definition of “clutch” during the four-game playoff push. Although the Birds brought in plenty of new faces at the receiver position, it’s hard to see him not getting a fair shot at being a backup in 2020.
What are the expectations for Greg Ward in the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp?
Expect to see Greg Ward fighting for a roster spot during training camp and the preseason. While he did prove that he’s a capable slot receiver in 2019, the Eagles prioritized adding more speed this offseason. DeSean Jackson, Marquise Goodwin, and Jalen Reagor are expected to be the starters on opening day and Alshon Jeffery is expected to return from injury at some point in 2020. Ward will have to compete with guys like J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, and Deontay Burnett for those last few spots on the depth chart.
Ward has an edge since he’s familiar with the playbook and is the most proven out of that group but it never hurts to have healthy competition. If there are no preseason games, we could see more of Ward in the opening weeks because of his experience in the offense compared to those other guys though.
Even with the talent and speed that Jalen Reagor possesses, it’s not certain that he’ll be ready to step into this lineup right away without some preseason reps. Facing NFL cornerbacks every Sunday is difficult enough as a rookie so they have to make sure he’s fully prepared. Hopefully, that’s not the case but either way, Ward should see plenty of reps before the season gets underway. His ability to punt return should also help his case for a roster spot.
Here’s what Philadelphia Eagles fans should expect from Greg Ward in 2020.
As mentioned, Greg Ward is the most proven and experienced guys battling for the last few backup spots on the depth chart. Due to his ability to find the openings in zone coverage, shake defenders on slant and drag routes underneath, and get open at the intermediate level of the field, there’s a good chance we will still see Ward in a situational role in 2020.
Mack Hollins was used situationally as the fourth receiver in 2017 behind Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor as he hauled in 16 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown, but when he was asked to step up as a starter it was ugly. Ward has already done that and can get first downs out of the slot when called upon. He even lined up at his old quarterback position for one snap in Week 16 and gained five rushing yards, so with that being said, Doug Pederson might have some special packages up his sleeve for Ward this season.
Ward is too reliable in big moments to not see the field in 2020. He hangs on to the ball and makes tough catches in tight coverage. He’s also a guy that you can always rely on to move the chains. Having proven and trustworthy backups at any position is something that can’t be undervalued in the NFL. Greg Ward worked hard and earned everything that he accomplished last year, and he’s here to stay with this Eagles franchise.