Firstly, this isn’t new. Just look at Trey Burton. The former Eagles TE quarterbacked during his time at Florida and did so successfully. That would ultimately lend itself very nicely to what is now known as one of the most iconic plays in NFL history: The Philly Special.
Press Taylor, the Eagles QB coach, was the man who just yesterday told reporters that he could see this trend continuing. The QB coach who not only works with Wentz, Sudfeld, Kessler and Thorson, but will be very aware of the talent surrounding them.
That talent involves two ‘QB to WR’ converts, with the first being Greg Ward Jr.
At the University of Houston, Ward threw for 8,704 yards and 52 touchdowns in just 49 games. 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, a team he is now enjoying his second stint with.
Ward originally transitioned WR upon signing a deal with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent. Running a 4.5 40-yard dash, Ward is an impressive athlete who must not be overlooked.
Over two preseasons with the Eagles, Ward caught 13 passes for 92 yards, developing as a route runner in the process. That was further backed up by his tenure in the AAF. He didn’t necessarily blow the league up during his time with the San Antonio Commanders, but he recorded 22 receptions for 214 yards and more importantly, showcased an ability as a returner, bringing back nine punts for 135 yards, leading the league with an average of 15 yards per return. Ver. Sa. Tility.
At just 23-years old, Ward is still extremely young and could be a viable option to compete for a spot lower down the roster. Given the Eagles already liked what they saw, who’s to say that the third-time around, he won’t want to try something different? It’s not as if the Mountain has gotten any easier to climb, the position is more dangerous than ever. But if Ward Jr. can tap into his quarterbacking background, who is to say he can’t sneak on as a true gadget player?
Ward Jr. isn’t alone, however. Braxton Miller is a name who is consistently on the lips of Eagles coaches and with good reason. Having last played for the Texans in 2017 where he caught 19 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in 11 games, Miller spent all of the 2018 season on the Eagles practice squad and signed a futures deal in January. While again, it’s clear the Birds obviously like what Miller brings to the table, it’s not out of the equation to imagine a new role.
If not for an injury, the former two-time Big Ten Player of the Year may well have declared as a quarterback. Miller threw for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season as an Ohio State Buckeye, leading the team in rushing yards with 715 in the process. He earned strong praise from one Urban Meyer, too.
“Braxton Miller is the most dynamic player I’ve ever coached. I’ve had first-rounders all over the place. But Braxton is strong, he’s 215 now, and his acceleration is just off the charts. He also has a degree of humility that you almost never see in quarterbacks at Top 10 programs.”http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2012/07/dynamic_braxton_miller_impress.html
In his sophomore year, Miller broke out with 2,000 passing yards and over 1,200 rushing yards, a franchise record for an Ohio State QB to go with 13 rushing touchdowns. A torn labrum suffered in a non-contact drill forced him to miss the entire 2014 season and eventually make the switch to wide receiver, where his unconventional path then led him to the NFL and where we are today.
Given the athletic ability of Ward Jr. and Miller, is it really that farfetched to imagine one of, if not, both players carving a ‘Taysom Hill’ like role?
We know Doug Pederson is one of the most forward-thinking coaches in the league, as evidenced by his creative offense. We know that Howie Roseman is one of the most forward-thinking GM’s in the league. Putting 2+2 together and creating matchup nightmares just sounds too…obvious?
The Eagles red zone offense is already poised to be lethal. Jordan Howard scored more touchdowns than almost the entire Eagles backfield combined last year, and when you factor in #GoedErtz, Alshon Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, what you have is an absolute behemoth of an offense. But what if instead of Jordan Howard, Greg Ward Jr. ran a sweep before dumping the ball over the top to Goedert? What if those wildcat plays made so exotic by the Saints, slowly crept into the playbook?
As every NFL team looks for the next bubble, the next big window to gain a competitive advantage, the Eagles already have two players who fit the mold of a trend spreading across the league like wildfire. And if there’s ever a coach gutsy enough to try and make it work, it’s Doug Pederson.