Eagles WR Greg Ward will be fighting a familiar battle this offseason

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles Wide Receiver Greg Ward (84) celebrates a first down reception in the second half during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Greg Ward has overcome a lot in his rise to becoming the Eagles’ most reliable receiver. After entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent who was willing to change position from quarterback to give himself the best chance of success, it took three attempts at cracking the roster to finally stick around. After a career-year in 2020, it’s surprisingly familiar territory for Ward, who will be facing another tall Mountain to climb.

Ward rose to prominence at the end of 2019. Carson Wentz put a broken offense on his back and lifted the Eagles to a playoff berth with a lot of help from Greg Ward. Over the final four games that year, the team were in a must-win situation to keep postseason hopes alive. Ward put up 209 yards and a touchdown in that span, with the score coming against Washington in what has since become an iconic fourth-quarter moment.

In the year that followed, Ward secured himself a starting role in the slot. Through the opening nine weeks of the season, he recorded 282 receiving yards for a pair of touchdowns, surpassing his 2019 receiving total with ease. His real shining moment would once again come when the Eagles needed it most. 

In the weeks that followed the benching of Carson Wentz, Ward Jr. stood out. Jalen Hurts didn’t take long to find confidence throwing in Ward’s direction, with the slot receiver racking up 92 yards on 9 receptions and a hat-trick of touchdowns between weeks 13-16.

All signs pointed towards the former Houston signal-caller building on his recent success. With DeVonta Smith drafted in the first-round of the Draft and his tender signed, Ward looked to once again be a prominent offensive feature. However, like all players under Nick Sirianni, he’s going to have to fight for his right to party.

It was made clear during the offseason that former first-round pick Jalen Reagor will be seeing a flurry of action over the middle this season in a bid to maximize his skillset, create offensive mismatches, and enable the Eagles to get their most talented wideouts on the field. This immediately cuts into Ward’s playing time, who at 5’11, 190 lbs, is likely limited to the slot. On top of that, the depth chart doesn’t exactly appear to be formatted in his favor.

Technically, players like Fulgham and JJAW should be listed as ‘X’ receivers, but we can assume DeVonta Smith’s presence might cause a slight shuffle here. Reagor was previously the leading ‘Z’ candidate but his versatility could see him take on more of a positionless role.

X – DeVonta Smith, John Hightower
Y – Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins
Z – Travis Fulgham, J.J Arcega-Whiteside

It would make sense for Quez Watkins to spend some of his time working from the slot too given the amount of speed the team now have to use on the outside and his smaller frame. This immediately puts pressure on Ward given that Watkins is still only on year two of his rookie contract, whereas Ward will be a free agent after this season.

Only adding to the pile of problems is the fact that there could be some intent to also use some of the bigger bodies like Travis Fulgham on the inside. The Eagles had previously experimented with big-slot receivers but never really dedicated to the cause. Nick Sirianni Has expressed full intent to move guys around and mold his offense to extract the most from his players, and Greg Ward is one of the few wideouts who doesn’t really have the versatility card to play, only further stacking the deck against him.

Ward’s contributions to the Eagles have earned him the reputation of a player who has a solid floor as a starting slot receiver at the NFL level. But with a flurry of recently drafted talent and a Head Coach who isn’t afraid to shake things up to squeeze every last drop of juice from his offense, Ward is right back where he started. It just so happens that he’s beaten those odds time and time again…and writing him off this time may prove to be a very undies decision.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire