When the Philadelphia Eagles shut it down and turned the lights off on the 2016 season, there was an obvious question that needed to be answered. Will the Eagles get legitimate talent to place around quarterback Carson Wentz? As the season was coming to an end, there were a few bright spots. The offensive line seemed to have depth of talent and Wentz has a real feel for WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz. Besides those two the only other reliable and explosive threat through the air had seemed to be RB Darren Sproles.
Fast forward to the start of free agency this year and the birds struck gold on WR’s Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery. The fun didn’t end there, as the team looked to add all the talent they could around their 2nd year franchise QB, selecting WR’s Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson along with RB/WR Donnel Pumphrey during the NFL Draft.
Early on in OTA’s, the news coming out of camp was the wideout core as a whole looked to be on a different level than that of the last year or so. Jeffery, Smith, Hollins and 3rd year wideout Nelson Agholor all seemed to be playing at a high level. This is great news for the Eagles, but even better news for Carson Wentz, who is now surrounded by an abundance of talent.
Despite the new additions already making their mark, one player seemed to put on a show day in and day out, Greg Ward. Having recently transitioned from quarterback at Houston University to wideout, Ward is looking to make it on the bottom half of the Eagles roster.
The 5’11 190 lbs, playmaker is what some would call “Lighting in a bottle”and has already made his switch to receiver seem a bit easier than the normal athlete would. The thing is, Ward is no normal athlete. He’s blessed with great feet, great vision and a nastiness to his style of play that can only help the change.
In 49 games, Ward threw for 8,704 yards and 52 touchdowns. Add to that his 2,381 yards and 39 touchdowns on the ground and you start to see the potential he brings to the Eagles. In his time at Houston, Ward brought a legitimate leadership aspect to go with his ridiculous talent. A leader in both the locker room and on the field, Ward understands what it takes to make this transition, and help win games.
The great news for the Birds is that Ward has already played some receiver at Houston, going back to his freshman year when he appeared in 10 games as a backup QB. Along with that, he rushed for 176 yard and 2 touchdowns, and had 95 yards threw the air and a touchdown for good measure.
In his short time playing wideout in midnight green, Ward has flashed the playmaking ability that he showcased in his collegiate career. Signed on as an UDFA, there isn’t as much pressure on him to perform which could help with his development. While watching him in open practices, you see his quick feet as they help him come in and out of routes. He has great speed (4.5 40-yard dash) that can help him get to the top of his route quickly and serve as a threat across the field.
Knowing he wouldn’t be a quarterback going into the NFL, Ward prepared himself, during his time at school.
“I knew my senior year that I wasn’t going to be a quarterback in the NFL. So I would stay after practice last year and run a few routes hear and there and prepare myself.” (Philly.com)
This speaks to his character as a guy who is willing to put in the time and effort, to be a success in the NFL.
Despite the long road and uphill battle Ward faces, he has not shied away from the competition of it all. He understands that it is a long shot, but it has not stopped his push. Speaking to him briefly, you get the sense that he has the mindset of someone who is willing to do whatever it takes.
“I understand the long shot, I understand that I have a ways to go. But I also know I have the talent and the heart to be a player, and a playmaker in the League, and for the Eagles. All I can do is work my butt off, keep my head down and grind. So that is what I am doing. I love football, I love playing this game, and I don’t care where I play, I am going to give my everything.”
There is no doubt that Ward posses the skillset to be a weapon in this Eagles offense. He has already made the best of his short time in the league by turning heads at OTA’s and minicamp. He can be a playmaker in both the passing and running game, as he has a thick base and bounce off ability to take a screen pass the distance. Only time will tell what he is in this Eagles offense, but if the early indications mean anything, we could be looking at a star.
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports