Greg Ward

‘Don’t nobody believe in us’ — Eagles’ young WRs feeling free

‘Don’t nobody believe in us’ — Eagles’ young WRs feeling free

These guys aren’t going to the Pro Bowl … but they might be going to the playoffs.

The Eagles are one win away from clinching the NFC East and if they get into the playoffs, their top three receivers in the wild card round will be Greg Ward Jr., J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Robert Davis.

That might sound like a ton of pressure on the young trio.

But it’s the exact opposite.

“You’re playing with house money,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “That’s how we’re approaching it.

“S—, don’t nobody believe in us. We believe in each other. We ain’t got no other choice. Whatever we do out there, they’re either going to not believe in us or they start to believe in us and we can build off of that.”

It’s not like this trio is setting the world on fire, but the Eagles are winning. While Ward has been stacking some productive games, the production hasn’t really been there as much for Arcega-Whiteside and Davis. But all three contributed in the win over the Cowboys.

• Ward had four catches for 71 yards, including a huge 38-yarder down the sideline on the third quarter touchdown.

• Arcega-Whiteside had just two catches for 39 yards but both came on the tone-setting field goal drive to start the game. One was a 27-yarder on the first play from scrimmage and the other was a 12-yarder on 3rd-and-10.

• And Davis had just one catch but it was a six-yarder to move the sticks on the touchdown drive in the first quarter.

These guys aren’t the trio of Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor that we all thought would be destroying defenses while catching passes from Carson Wentz. But they’re what’s left. And they’ve been a part of a youth movement with the Eagles this season.

The Eagles’ offense has completely changed from earlier in the season based on personnel. And with the younger players in there, the Eagles have benefitted from simplifying things from an offensive perspective, head coach Doug Pederson said.

“These guys, they are busting their tail for Carson,” Pederson said. “And Carson is trusting them and giving them every opportunity to make plays.”

Despite injuries, the older trio is still around. That’s something the younger guys stressed. Alshon and DeSean and Nelly are still in the meeting room, they’re still there to answer questions and to help their teammates prepare during the week.

They’re just not there on Sundays to get in the way of them playing.

“I would say we all learned from them,” Ward said. “Now, we’re just putting it to work right now. I’d say we’re all very mature, we’re all ballplayers, we’re all very professional. We’re just taking what we learned in the film room and learn from those guys and put it out on the field.”

There’s a glimmer of hope that if the Eagles are able to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs, Jackson might be able to join them. But the Eagles have two more games to try to win before they get to that point.

One of them will come on Sunday in North Jersey when they face the Giants. The Eagles are going into a game to decide the division with three pretty inexperienced receivers.

No big deal.

“We played tonight with just us three,” Arcega-Whiteside said after Sunday’s in over the Cowboys. “We played last week with just us three.”

These three have been gaining confidence and have been feeling more comfortable every week they’ve played. If you don’t think they can get it done, that’s actually a good thing. That’s what has them playing free right now.

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How the Eagles can beat the Cowboys in Roob's Random Observations!

How the Eagles can beat the Cowboys in Roob's Random Observations!

Thoughts on Greg Ward and Howie Roseman, what the Eagles have to do to win Sunday, more unbelievable wide receiver stats and what the Eagles are trying to do that’s never been done.

It’s all here in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s Random Eagles Observations!

1. I feel like the only way the Eagles can beat the Cowboys Sunday is if they force more turnovers than they commit. The Cowboys have more talent, the Eagles have a better coach, and the way the Cowboys run the ball, protect the quarterback and convert third downs, I don’t know how the Eagles can win unless they’re at worst +1 in turnover ratio. They’ve only won the turnover margin three times this year, and won all those games — Packers, Jets, Bears. They’re 1-5 when they lose it — an overtime win over a 3-11 Giants team was the only exception — and 4-7 when they’re +0 or worse. Under Doug Pederson the Eagles are 18-0 at home when they’re +0 or better and 6-9 when they’re -1 or worse. The last time they lost at the Linc when they had a +1 or better? It was the Saints playoff game in 2013. Protect the ball and take the ball away, and you win the game.

2. If the Eagles win the NFC East, they’ll be the first team in NFL history to reach the playoffs in consecutive years after being 7-7 through 14 games.

3. I don’t know if Greg Ward will ever be a star in the NFL, but one thing I love about his game is the quiet confidence he plays with. You could see it the first time Carson Wentz targeted him in the Seattle game. For a kid who had never caught an NFL pass he just looked so comfortable from the start. Like he belongs. There’s something to be said for a guy who’s played QB at the highest level. Ward quarterbacked Houston past No. 9 Florida State in the Peach Bowl before converting to wide receiver in the NFL, so you know the moment is never going to be too big for him. During his heyday — 2008 through 2013 — Jason Avant was one of the better slots in the league, averaging 45 catches for 552 yards per year. No reason Ward can’t be that type of guy.

4. Only seven NFL players this year have a 40-yard run and a 40-yard catch. Only one has two of each. Miles Sanders.

5. The Eagles haven’t played a single game this year in which they’ve outscored their opponent by more than four points in each half.  Not one. They’re either racing out to a hot start and hanging on for dear life or falling in a hole and trying to frantically rally. Really tough way to win, when you can’t put a complete game together. The lack of consistency within games has been hugely disappointing.

6. I’ve been hard on Howie Roseman, and he’s had his mis-steps, but you’ve got to give him credit for the Miles Sanders pick and for identifying Ward and Boston Scott as possible contributors and getting them onto the practice squad. Were the Eagles too slow to activate them? Probably. But what’s most important is that they’re here, they’re Eagles and they’re helping. As for Sanders, the kid is a flat-out stud. Howie nailed that pick.

7. The Eagles’ biggest player evaluation issues have been on defense. Since 2003, the Eagles have drafted 25 defensive players in the first three round. ONE of those 25 has become a Pro Bowler, Fletcher Cox, and the only other ones who’ve even been above-average starters for a few years are Mike Patterson, Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Graham. I’ll include Jordan Hicks, even though he was constantly hurt. That’s one Pro Bowler and four above-average starters out of 25 premium-round picks in a 17-year span. This goes back a lot farther than Howie. This defense is in desperate need of young, elite, playmaking talent.

8. In the previous 17 years, from 1986 through 2002, the Eagles drafted 10 Pro Bowl defensive players in the first three rounds.     

9. Whatever happens the next few weeks, a major theme of this offseason for the Eagles will be moving on from many of the key guys from the Super Bowl team. Nelson Agholor, Ronald Darby, Tim Jernigan, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Darren Sproles, Vinny Curry and Jay Ajayi are probably gone, and Alshon Jeffery, Corey Clement, Jason Peters, Rodney McLeod, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and a couple others could be on their way out as well. The Eagles do understand that they have to get younger. The problem with moving on from so many key players? You have to find a way to replace them.

10. Eagles wide receivers have one catch over 30 yards (and none of 40 yards) in the last 12 games. One catch over 30 YARDS. Since WEEK 3. How is that even possible?

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Crazy Miles Sanders numbers and more in this week's Roob's Stats!

Crazy Miles Sanders numbers and more in this week's Roob's Stats!

We could do Miles Sanders stats all day and all night. The guy is a human stats machine, but we’ve got years of Miles Sanders stats to look forward to, so we’re going to try to spread out the wealth.

So in this week’s edition of Roob Stats we highlight Sanders but also some Greg Ward, some Carson Wentz, some Zach Ertz and much more.

MILES STANDS ALONE: Only seven NFL players have at least one 40-yard catch and one 40-yard run this year. Only one player has TWO of each. Miles Sanders, of course. His four total 40-yard offensive plays are also most by any NFL running back and more than all Eagles wide receivers combined [DeSean Jackson 2, Nelson Agholor 1]. He’s the first Eagles running back with four 40-yard plays in a season since LeSean McCoy had six in 2013.

ALREADY TIED WITH B-WEST: With his 65-yarder against the Bills and 56-yarder Sunday, Sanders already has as many total runs of at least 55 yards over the last 25 years as any Eagle other than McCoy (5) and his position coach, Duce Staley (3). Bryce Brown and Ricky Watters also had two.

PILING UP THE FIRST DOWNS: The Eagles have recorded 27 or more first downs in consecutive games for the first time in their last 145 games. The last time they did that was the first two weeks of 2011 [27 vs. the Rams and Falcons].

AND HE’S NOT NAMED JACKSON: Greg Ward’s 18 catches so far are the 6th-most in franchise history by a player in his first five career games (and he didn’t play on offense in the first one).

29 … Keith Jackson [1988]
23 … DeSean Jackson [2008]
21 … Harold Jackson [1969]
20 … Bud Grant [1952]
19 … Jordan Matthews [2014]
18 … Greg Ward [2019]
18 … Lee Bouggess [1970]
18 … Charle Young [1973]

14 AND COUNTING: Carson Wentz completed his last 14 passes of the game Sunday. He takes the 6th-longest streak of consecutive completions in Eagles history into the Dallas game:

25 … Nick Foles [vs. Redskins, 2018]
24 … Donovan McNabb [vs. Giants/Packers, 2014]
18 … Donovan McNabb [vs. Lions, 2007]
15 … Carson Wentz [vs. Panthers, 2018]
15 … Donovan McNabb [vs. Steelers, 2008]
14 … Carson Wentz [vs, Redskins, 2019]

WINNING THE HARD WAY: Sunday’s win over the Redskins was only the 6th in franchise history in which the Eagles didn’t record a sack or an interception. Sacks have been an official NFL stat since 1982. The Eagles are 6-16 since then when they don’t have a sack, and that’s actually the best record in the NFL. Overall, NFL teams are 151-939 [.139] in games when they don’t have a sack or interception, according to Pro Football Reference.

SOMEBODY COVER THE ROOKIE: Only seven rookie receivers have ever had 125 yards in a game once against the Eagles. Terry McLaurin has now done it twice. McLaurin’s 255 total yards this year are 3rd-most ever by a rookie in a single season against the Eagles. Hall of Famer Bob Hayes of the Cowboys had 283 in 1965 [177, 106] and Anthony Carter of the Vikings had 256 in 1985 [124, 132].

MOVING UP TO #13 ALL-TIME: With five catches Sunday, Zach Ertz increased his career total to 521 and is now tied for 13th in NFL history with Rob Gronkowski. He’s only 26 receptions out of 10th place and only 93 out of the all-time top-5.

CHASING JASON WITTEN: With three catches, Ertz will break Jason Witten’s NFL record for most receptions ever by a tight end in his first seven seasons. Witten caught 523 from 2003 through 2009. Ertz has 521 with two games left.

THIRD-DOWN BEASTS: Sunday’s game will feature the top two teams in the NFL on third down. The Cowboys have converted 48.6 percent [85-for-175] and the Eagles are at 47.0 percent [94-for-200]. The Cowboys’ figure is highest by any NFL team since the Chargers converted 49 percent in 2013, and it’s their highest since they were at 48.8 percent in 2006. The Eagles’ 47.0 percent is highest on record (since 1991). The highest since then is 43.5 percent in 2014.

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