Eagles

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Cross Eagles offensive coordinator candidates James Urban and Bobby Engram off the list

Cross Eagles offensive coordinator candidates James Urban and Bobby Engram off the list

On Thursday, we learned that the Eagles were interested in Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban for their vacant offensive coordinator opening.

The next day, we found out that isn’t happening. 

At his year-end press conference in Baltimore on Friday, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the Eagles interviewed Urban and TEs coach Bobby Engram for openings but both candidates pulled their names out of contention within the last 24 hours.

While the Eagles were reportedly interested in Urban as an offensive coordinator candidate, they were also reportedly interested in Engram as a wide receivers coach candidate. Those are the two vacancies on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles. (They also have to fill the defensive backs coach spot left vacant by Cory Undlin, who went to Detroit as a defensive coordinator.)

Urban, 46, seemed like he’d be a good fit for the Eagles. He’s a hot name right now based on his success with likely MVP Lamar Jackson this year. And he has familiarity with the Eagles and head coach Doug Pederson. 

Urban and Pederson were on Andy Reid’s Eagles staff together in 2009 and 2010. In fact, when Urban left after the 2010 season, Pederson took over his role as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach. 

Urban spent the next seven seasons as the Bengals’ wide receivers coach and then the last two seasons in Baltimore coaching Jackson and their other quarterbacks. 

But now we can cross him off the list. 

Same goes for Engram, who was one of two former players of interest named in a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer last week. The other was former NFL star Hines Ward, who spent this past season as an offensive assistant with the New York Jets. 

It has been over a week since the Eagles fired Mike Groh and they have been very quiet as they search for their next offensive coordinator. In fact, Urban was one of the first names even mentioned in reports. 

Some other names of interest still available are Chiefs OC Mike Kafka, Dolphins QBs coach (and former Colts HC) Jim Caldwell, former Redskins HC Jay Gruden and internal candidates Press Taylor and Duce Staley.

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Miles Sanders breaks down his case for Rookie of the Year

Miles Sanders breaks down his case for Rookie of the Year

Down the stretch of the 2019 season, Miles Sanders didn’t want to talk about his chances to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was focused on winning games. 

Now that the Eagles’ season is over, though, it’s a discussion worth having. Because Sanders should definitely be in the mix. 

On Thursday, the Eagles’ running back was on the FS1 show “Undisputed” and was asked about his chances to win the annual Associated Press award.

“I think I have a pretty good shot,” Sanders said. “With the other guys that's being nominated, there's Josh Jacobs, [he] had a good year too and Kyler Murray too. All had great rookie years. But I got a lot of confidence in myself based on the type of production that I gave, basically, I think, in half of a season, with (Darren) Sproles going down, going on IR, and Jordan Howard going down for the rest of the half of the season.”

While he didn’t want to talk about ROY late in the season, it’s pretty clear Sanders knows when he’s been slighted. 

The Eagles haven’t had a Rookie of the Year since tight end Charle Young won the award way back in 1973. But Sanders definitely has as strong case for his performance in 2019. 

After a pretty slow start, Sanders got better with every week and then he helped carry the Eagles once Howard went down and was a big reason why the Eagles got into the playoffs. He finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. 

Sanders set an Eagles rookie record and led all rookies this season with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. 

There’s plenty of competition, though. Jacobs was just named the PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year a couple days ago but that doesn’t always match the AP list, which is considered the real award. Jacobs, fair or not, might have an advantage as a first-round pick. 

And then there’s Murray, who might have an advantage as a quarterback. 

Why does Sanders think he has a chance over an impressive rookie QB? 

“I think you can say how important those last four games were, that run that we went on. And just knowing that we had to win those four games in order to get to the playoffs. … I think those four games were big and I stepped up pretty well. They asked me to do a lot, they like to find ways to get me the ball. And I’ve been doing well as far as each game just getting better and better at it.”

Sanders is right. He stepped up in those big games. In the final four games of the regular season, he averaged 4.73 yards per attempt and averaged 112 yards from scrimmage per game. And unlike Murray and Jacobs, Sanders helped get his team to the playoffs. He was sixth in the entire NFL in scrimmage yards in December. 

Let’s take a look at the top candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year and their respective cases: 

RB Miles Sanders (Eagles): Finished with 818 rushing yards, 509 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage, added 314 return yards earlier in the season  

QB Kyler Murray (Cardinals): Led rookie quarterbacks with 3,722 passing yards and 544 rushing yards, threw for 20 touchdowns (12 INTs) and rushed for 4 more. Led bad Cardinals team to a 5-10-1 record.  

RB Josh Jacobs (Raiders): Led all rookies with 1,150 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, finished second with 1,316 scrimmage yards, had five 100-yard games 

WR A.J. Brown (Titans): Finished with 1,051 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns to lead all rookies, averaged 20.2 yards per reception, team is in AFC Championship Game

There’s definitely some stiff competition this year. Any of those four guys would be deserving but Sanders definitely has one of the strongest cases. And a running back has won in four of the last six years. 

So does Sanders think he’s going to win? 

“I could just say I feel confident in myself,” Sanders said. “I just pray to God I could be blessed with the opportunity. That would be a blessing and a dream come true.”

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