Greg Ward Jr. wasn't officially on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster when the 2019 NFL season began, and he had already been cut by the team six different times by the time he got a promotion to the starting lineup in late November. With the 2020 season now right around the corner, however, it appears the converted quarterback could be in for his biggest role yet. Addressing the media upon his return from a COVID-19 quarantine on Wednesday, coach Doug Pederson indicated that the 25-year-old pass catcher could open the year in the starting lineup.
"I've always liked Greg," Pederson said. "The one thing now, as he goes into this season, he's in that rotation, in that starting mix for us ... Being a former quarterback, he understands our offense. Being in our offense, he knows the concepts and the routes. He and Carson (Wentz) have a really good feel for one another."
Not only that, but Pederson even hinted at Ward serving as a mentor in the wide receiver room, which could be without rehabilitating starter Alshon Jeffery to open the season.
"We expect some really big things from Greg," he said. "He can also be a leader. He can be a leader of that group. Him and DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, these guys, they can be leaders now and mentors to these young players."
In other words, if you expected Ward to be on the roster bubble, as has often been the case throughout his young NFL career, it's fair to readjust expectations. Truth be told, ever since Ward successfully filled in for since-departed slot receiver Nelson Agholor in late 2019, the former Houston standout has unofficially been locked into a roster spot. Pederson's praise, however, suggests he'll remain one of the top targets outside of Jackson and tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to begin 2020.
Jeffery and first-round draft pick Jalen Reagor figure to see snaps over Ward once they're up to speed, but the latter has been preparing in the slot -- on and off the Eagles' scout team -- since 2017, when he first signed as an undrafted rookie. Last year, when he replaced an injured Agholor, Ward saw at least five targets in all but one of his six regular-season appearances, averaging 4.4 catches per contest, including the playoffs, to go along with a catch rate of more than 70 percent. Simply put, he was one of Wentz's steadiest outlets at the WR position, complete with a game-winning touchdown against Washington to help the Eagles win the NFC East.