2020 has been a hugely disappointing season for the Philadelphia Eagles and it’s hard to really take many positives away from a year that has been shrouded in waves of uncertainty on and off the field. However, every cloud has a silver lining and Greg Ward Jr’s continued growth could well be the brightest as the team prepare for a crucial two-game stretch.
As of right now, the Eagles sit fourth in whatever is left of the NFC East. Both of their remaining games come against divisional opponents (Dallas & Washington), which means that providing they win out, there is a strong chance that they could creep up the backstairs to a divisional crown. For that to happen though, the offense will need to be able to move the chains efficiently. Although the 2019 and 2020 circumstances are similar on the surface, they couldn’t be further apart. The one constant between the two is a hot run of form from the former University of Houston quarterback.
Over the final four games of last season, where the Eagles couldn’t afford to drop another game, the Texas native recorded 21 receptions, 209 yards, and 1 TD, which came against the Redskins in that iconic 4th quarter moment.
Since the appointment of Jalen Hurts at QB, Greg Ward has stepped up to the plate in a pinch-hitter role. Over the last 3 games, he has 9 receptions for 92 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Eagles will be looking to squeeze plenty of Juice from this fruit over the next two weeks against two teams who are already leaning against the ropes.
His growth over the last few years has been incredible. From a UDFA QB convert who was cut by the Eagles on two occasions, to an AAF standout and comeback kid who not only made the Eagles’ roster on the third time of asking, but would go on to lock down a starting role for the 2020 season, Ward has done nothing but steal hearts during his journey up the depth chart and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Ward has actually played in the 4th most snaps of any slot receiver this season and has the 2nd most touchdowns.
Juju Smith-Schuster: 606 snaps (670 yards, 7 TD)
CeeDee Lamb: 543 snaps (827 yards, 4 TD)
Tyler Boyd: 521 snaps (840 yards, 4TD)
Greg Ward Jr.: 519 snaps (386 yards, 6 TD)
Cole Beasley: 501 snaps (950 yards, 4TD)
While his yardage does see a significant decrease in comparison to the other names here, it’s important to note how stale and devoid of life the Eagles’ offense has been. The fact that he’s developed into a red-zone machine can only be taken as a positive given the state of the bigger picture.
“Greg, I’ll tell you, he’s such a really good route runner.” Doug Pederson told reporters yesterday. “Being a former quarterback, he really understands leverage. He understands coverage. He’s another one that just wants to learn. And he’s just a sponge out there. He’s been in the league now a couple years. But still wanting to improve and get better.
And he just knows how to set up defenders. He’s obviously quicker than he is probably faster — straight line speed. And that’s okay, because down in the red zone or on third down is where you need that. He’s been impressive. And not a real big guy, but he plays bigger than his size is. And he’s having a solid year.”
Around this time one year ago, Greg Ward became the clutch king with his iconic game-winning touchdown against Washington. All signs are pointing towards history repeating itself and if it does, the pending free agent may just play himself into a long-term contract with the franchise he spent so long trying to prove himself to when making the leap to the NFL.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire