Greg Ward

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The NFL is constantly evolving, constantly changing, as teams look for new twists to gain an advantage.

What’s next?

Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor had some fascinating thoughts about that.

I do think at some point one of the big things is having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball,” he said. “I think that’s something [you’ll see] going forward. You’ve seen kind of the Philly Special, all the different versions of double passes, things like that. I think at some point something like that I could see coming into play.

Now, to put this in context, Taylor — who was originally brought to the Eagles in 2013 by Chip Kelly — is the guy who brought the Philly Special to the Eagles after seeing the Bears run it in 2016. (Read Dave Zangaro’s story about that here.)

So we know he has an innovative mind. Taylor, who was a quality control coach under Kelly and assistant quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017, is now beginning his second year as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.

“Not necessarily saying that we’re doing that or anything like that,” Taylor said, laughing. “But I just think pushing the envelope could be something [we see]. You’ve got these guys coming out of college that are dual-threat quarterbacks and transition to receiver, different things like that. Those guys get on the field and just to be able to get your best players on the field and threaten the defense in the most ways possible. It’ll be fun to see.”

Interesting to note that the Eagles have two pretty successful college quarterbacks in their receiving corps.

Braxton Miller was Ohio State’s starting quarterback for three years and finished fifth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting and ninth in 2013 before missing 2014 with a shoulder injury and converting to receiver.

Greg Ward was a quarterback at Houston and capped his college career with a win over No. 9 Florida State in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The two of them combined for 13,999 passing yards, 104 touchdowns and 43 interceptions as college QBs.

Who knows whether either one will make the final roster, but if they do, the possibilities are intriguing.

You look at all your guys,” Doug Pederson said. “We found out that [Nelson Agholor] can throw and DeSean [Jackson] can throw a little bit and some of these guys, you can use them in unique situations. Again, this is springtime. This is where we get a chance to experiment and sort of dabble in some of these gadget plays and find out who can do that kind of stuff. It does help to have that QB background.

Here are five memorable instances of non-quarterbacks throwing the ball for the Eagles (and we skipped the Philly Special just because that’s still fresh in everybody’s mind):

Keith Byars' perfect season: In 1990, Eagles running back Keith Byars threw four passes and all four were touchdowns (two to Anthony Toney, one to Heath Sherman, one to Calvin Williams). Nobody else in NFL history has thrown more than two passes in a season in which all his attempts were TDs.  

B-Mitch to Dawk: In a 2002 game against the Texans, running back Brian Mitchell threw a 57-yard TD pass to Brian Dawkins, the only career reception of Dawk’s career. Of the 318 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dawks’ career yards-per-catch average of 57.0 is highest.

Roger Ruzek did what?: In 1989, Eagles kicker Roger Ruzek threw a 22-yard TD pass to future Hall of Famer Cris Carter in a win over the Cards at the Vet. It was the only pass of Ruzek’s career. Ruzek is the only Eagle in the last 50 years to throw a touchdown pass and make a field goal in the same game.

Big-play Freddie: Interesting note about Freddie Mitchell: He had as many 25-yard TD passes in his career as 25-yard TD catches. One of each. In 2003, FredEx threw a 25-yard TD to Brian Westbrook in a win over the Dolphins in Miami. He’s the only WR to throw a TD pass for the Eagles in the last 35 years.

Legend to a legend: In a 1983 game against the Colts, Harold Carmichael threw a 45-yard TD to Mike Quick. Carmichael, who had 79 career TDs, and Quick, who had 61, are one of only three sets of teammates in NFL history who both had 60 TD catches to connect on a TD pass. The others are Dez Bryant (73) to Jason Witten (68) for the Cowboys against the Lions in 2016 and Charley Taylor (79) and Bobby Mitchell (65) of the Redskins against the Giants in 1965.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have three pretty darn good wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor.

That’s probably the best three-deep depth chart the Eagles have ever had at receiver and no doubt one of the best in the NFL.

But they’ll keep at least five. Last year, they kept six — Jeffery, Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter. So there’ll be a tremendous amount of competition this summer, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

The Eagles will probably also draft a receiver, and that could come fairly early. With the draft a week and a half away, here’s a look at what the Eagles have beyond the Big Three.

2017 draft picks

Mack Hollins

Hollins, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, did some good things as a rookie, with 16 catches for 226 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown against the Redskins and some excellent work on special teams.

Hollins missed all of last year with a mysterious groin injury that wasn’t considered serious during the preseason, but he’s got great size at 6-4, 220, and got a lot of good experience as a rookie, so he’s probably most likely at this point to be the fourth wideout.

Shelton Gibson

A fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, Gibson has only three catches to show for two NFL seasons. It was kind of odd last year that he caught a 48-yarder against the Vikings, then got just 12 snaps on offense the rest of the year and was never targeted again.

Gibson also played less and less on special teams as last year went on, which isn’t a good sign. 

Futures contracts

Braxton Miller

A really intriguing prospect, and the Eagles seem to like the former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist who converted to wideout. Miller spent all last year on the practice squad, so the Eagles know how athletic he is. 

Miller caught 34 passes in two seasons with the Texans. He’s only 26, he’s played at the highest level in college, and he knows this offense now. Keep an eye on him in camp.

Carlton Agudosi

Agudosi, a former Rutgers receiver from Franklin Township High in Somerset County, New Jersey, split the 2017 season on the Cards’ active roster and practice squad but was out of football last year.

He didn’t play a lot in college, but at 6-6, 220, he’s got unusual size and that could get him a good look this summer.

Johnny Holton

Holton played at Cincinnati before bouncing on and off the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad as both a receiver and cornerback. 

Now 27, Holton has only 11 career catches but three of them have gone for 44 or more yards, all from Derek Carr in 2017. Interesting speed prospect.

Dorren Miller

Raw prospect who played at JUCO Georgia Military College and Division II Carson-Newman, Miller ran a 4.39 coming out of school, which opened a lot of eyes. 

He was in camp last year with the Jaguars and then spent all year on the practice squad. 

Marken Michel 

Michel was in camp with the Vikings in 2016 and then spent three seasons in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.

His brother is Patriots running back Sony Michel.

AAF refugees

Greg Ward Jr.

Ward remains an intriguing prospect. Former Houston quarterback who led the Cougars to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State, he’s three years into his conversion as a wide receiver.

Ward, still only 23, got a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles in 2017 as a member of the practice squad but was released after camp last year and didn’t get a job until the AAF came along. He caught 22 passes for 214 yards playing for the San Antonio Commanders before the league was disolved earlier this month.

Charles Johnson

CJ2 was a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2013 and is 30 years old, so kind of unusual for a camp body. 

He bounced around with the Packers, Browns, Vikings, Panthers and Jets, piling up 60 catches for 834 yards and two TDs in three seasons in Minnesota.

Johnson spent this past winter with the Orlando Apollos of the AAF, where he caught 45 passes for 687 yards. In a game against the Commanders, he had seven catches for 192 yards and a touchdown from Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert.

Keep an eye on Johnson. The Eagles gave him a $25,000 workout bonus, which is a sign that they really wanted him.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles sign trio of former AAF players to 1-year deals

us_ward.png
USA Today Images

Eagles sign trio of former AAF players to 1-year deals

As teams around the NFL quickly scoop up the best players from the short-lived AAF, the Eagles got in the mix on Tuesday. 

The Birds announced they have signed QB Luis Perez (Birmingham Iron), WR Greg Ward Jr. (San Antonio Commanders) and WR Charles Johnson (Orlando Apollos) to one-year deals. 

Ward, 23, should be a familiar name. He has a unique story and is a perfect example of why a developmental league like the AAF should exist. Now a wide receiver, Ward (5-10, 186) was a college quarterback at the University of Houston. He’s trying to make it in the NFL as a receiver and has needed a little extra time. Ward caught 22 passes for 214 yards during the league’s brief stint. 

The Eagles signed Ward as an undrafted free agent back in 2017 and was on their practice squad for a good portion of the Super Bowl year. Last season, he was back with the Eagles in the spring and summer but again didn’t make the team. He has yet to make a 53-man roster. 

Perez, 24, has an even crazier backstory. The former Division II and junior college product actually taught himself how to play quarterback by watching YouTube videos. His numbers weren’t very good in the AAF, but he comes in with a chance to stick around as a practice squad player or even perhaps as a third QB on the 53-man roster. 

Johnson, 30, isn’t some developmental guy. He’s a former seventh-round pick of the Packers back in 2013. He bounced from the Packers to the Browns to the Vikings to the Panthers to the Jets to the Apollos and now to the Eagles. 

But from 2014-16, Johnson played in 39 games with the Vikings and caught 60 passes for 834 yards and two touchdowns. 

In the AAF, Johnson put up big numbers for the league’s best team. He led the league in receptions (45) and receiving yards (687). 

The odds are still against him and Ward, but it’s not a crazy thought that one of them might have a chance to make the Eagles’ roster. The Eagles have a dynamic starting group with Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, but lack depth. 

Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are the top returning depth guys, but after that, the Eagles have reserve/futures players Braxton Miller, Dorren Miller, Johnny Holton and Marken Michel. It seems really likely that Ward, Johnson or one of those guys will become a training camp darling this summer and push for a roster spot. 

What might become important for Ward is his ability to return. The Eagles are in need of return men, especially punt returners. Darren Sproles is a free agent, so the Eagles will likely need someone else. Jackson can do it in big situations, but at 32 years old, the Eagles shouldn’t make him their primary punt returner. That could give Ward an extra chance. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles