Philadelphia Eagles’ ‘ultimate pro’ Greg Ward making the most of his limited chances
Greg Ward Jr. hasn’t been targeted much by Jalen Hurts this season.
But when the Eagles quarterback receiving duo connected, Ward was quite effective as a goalscorer. Of his six takes, Three received touchdowns.
Which begs the question: why aren’t the Eagles playing Ward more?
“Greg is the ultimate pro,” said offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. “He’s a great leader in this room, without a doubt. These guys admire him. When his number is called, he has played.
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Ward, 26, could be the last player on the wide receiver’s depth chart with 312 total shots – behind rookie DeVonta Smith (904 shots), Jalen Reagor (776), Quez Watkins (766) and JJ Arcega-Whiteside (353) – but Ward served as a valuable chess piece for Hurts and first-year coach Nick Sirianni.
His most recent contribution came in a watershed moment in a 20-16 victory over Washington on Sunday. Facing the third and -14 in the third quarter, Hurts couldn’t hear Steichen’s play call through the helmet. With the game clock running out, Hurts, in his own words, “pulled one out of his hat.”
On the game, Hurts dialed his own numbers. He escaped the pressure, slipped out of the pocket and made one of the most impressive throws of his young career, passing a low pass to Ward, who broke his course.
“There’s no limit to where he can go,” Ward said of Hurts.
In falling, Ward ensured the reception for 27 yards. Four games later, the Eagles reduced Washington’s lead to possession as Boston Scott found the end zone on a rushed touchdown. It was the Hurts-Ward connection, however, that ended up being one of the most memorable moments of the victory.
“I’m just going to stay prepared for when my name is called,” Ward said. “That’s all I focus on.
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“I stay ready by staying on my routine, staying on my body. Do all the little things. Stay after training and sharpen my tools. Of course, I want to be more present, but I’m just going to be prepared.
It’s possible Ward will receive additional snaps in the next regular season finale, set for 8:15 p.m. Saturday against the Cowboys.
Sirianni remained elusive when asked on Thursday if he plans to rest his starters. The Eagles have already clinched a playoff berth and won’t play for much, although it’s possible they could go from seeded No.7 to No.6 depending on the outcome of the 49ers-Rams game. .
Earlier in the week, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to play his starters, but he did not reveal exactly how many possessions they could play on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Both NFC East teams are grappling with issues related to COVID-19. As of Thursday night, the Cowboys had nine players on the reserve / COVID-19 roster, and the Eagles had 12, including running backs Scott and Jordan Howard, tight ends Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll, center Jason Kelce, goaltender Nate Herbig, defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, linebackers Genard Avery and Alex Singleton, safes Marcus Epps and Rodney McLeod and cornerback Avonte Maddox.
In the final injury report released Thursday night, running back Miles Sanders (broken hand) was the only player ruled out against the Cowboys. Rookie offensive lineman Landon Dickerson (thumb) and right tackle Lane Johnson (rest / knee) have been listed as questionable.
“It’s still something we are discussing and working on,” Sirianni said. “Everyone is ready to go. Even the guys who are out of the building right now [due to COVID-19] are ready to go because of the preparation we have had by everyone throughout the week.
“It’s always something that we sort out. Each situation will be looked at differently. We are well aware that we are not in control of our own destiny, when it comes to seed # 6 or 7. Everyone is treated as a different scenario. … But our goal is to win this football match against a rival.
If the Eagles decide to let some of their best playmakers rest, such as Hurts and Smith, who only need 38 receiving yards to break DeSean Jackson’s franchise record for most receiving yards by a rookie, this could open up more opportunities for the reserves.
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“You always want to compete and win,” Ward said. “It’s important that we go out and play [vs. Cowboys]. “
Across the league, there have been mixed reactions regarding playing time before Week 18. Already owning an automatic pass as the NFC seed, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has been hampered by a broken toe, said he intended to play in a meaningless game. against the Lions. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow took the opposite approach and will rest with a handful of other starters in their game against the Browns.
“This game is always important because it’s the next game,” Ward said. “It’s the Cowboys – it’s the biggest rivalry in football. We will play to the best of our ability and try to win. “