BEFORE we go nuts talking about how fast the Eagles have gotten at the WR position, can we talk about how consistent the Eagles are, in regards to how they motivate as coaches? Given how WR Greg Ward stepped up last year, it seems almost a slap in the face that so many say that he may not even have a roster spot when the Eagles next play meaningful game.
Ward served three stints on the Practice Squad, before he finally was given a chance to play in a real NFL game. He played in seven games, starting the final three. In those starts he caught 17 of 21 targets for a catch rate of 80.9%, for 175 yards, as well as chalking CB Josh Norman in his home:
Overall in those seven games, Ward posted 28 grabs, for 254 yards and that score. Not killer stats, but given that he was essentially tossed into a meat-grinder, where he became the #1 wide receiver by default, Ward responded beautifully.
Hey, look, more speed is great. And unlike other years, not only do we have up-front speed, but we also have speed in reserve. That said, how do the Eagles send the message that stepping up matters, if they leave Ward on the upcoming cutting-room floor?
The answer is: They can’t. Especially if WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside gets to stay on the roster.
In a universe that makes sense, the Eagles would keep 6 WR’s instead of our customary 5. Those 6 should be: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Marquis Goodwin, and Whiteside. The Eagles however, will likely keep just 5, which could make that last spot a toss-up between Ward and Whiteside.
Outside of Jeffery, the Eagles don’t have another big receiver besides Whiteside, so that could be his edge. On the other hand, if the Eagles want a better route runner who uncovers quickly, and gives his QB a place to go with the football, then Ward is the no-brainer, hands-down, pound-the-table choice.
Odds are that Jeffery will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, so rookie Jalen Reagor will start opposite Djax. When Jeffery gets back, Reagor may end up sliding into the Slot. Until that happens, the Slot will likely be a question mark.
With Goodwin being speed insurance against an injury, don’t expect the Eagles to feature him too much. So in a six receiver group, the Slot role would be in play. In a five receiver group (in that universe that makes sense), it should belong to Ward for at least a few weeks.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve written a couple of articles about Ward. With a little bit of imagination Article 1, Article 2, he could be a reason for opposing coaching staffs to lose plenty of sleep. I just hope that the Eagles coaching staff doesn’t end up being the ones who get caught snoring.