Eagles Slot WR & Aggressive LB Named Breakout Stars to Watch

Greg Ward

Getty Greg Ward caught a touchdown pass for the Eagles. He can also play some quarterback.

Predicting breakout stars in the summer is always a fun exercise. The rookies are shiny new toys waiting to be unwrapped while the veterans are anxious to bust out of their old packaging.

For the Eagles, all eyes will be on the wide receiver position when training camp (hopefully) opens in July. The organization invested heavily in playmakers through the draft and via trade. On paper, Philadelphia has a track team and intriguing position battles all over the field. Perhaps none more important than at slot receiver.

Greg Ward Jr. owned the slot last year after being called up from the practice squad with Nelson Agholor nursing physical injuries and mental fatigue. He finished with 28 catches for 254 yards in seven games (three starts). Ward was efficient, reliable and clutch down the stretch while serving as a nice safety valve for Carson Wentz.

Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report recently picked Ward to be Philadelphia’s “Biggest Potential Breakout Player for 2020.” Knox prorated the receiver’s final six games over a full 16-game schedule and estimated that Ward would have had 75 receptions for 677 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll likely be competing against Jalen Reagor, Marquise Goodwin and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside at camp, depending on how much speed the Eagles want on the outside.

Ward is under contract for 2020, so he’ll have a great chance of breaking out as one of Carson Wentz’s favorite targets.

If you prorate Ward’s final six games over a full campaign, he’d have a 75-catch, 677-yard, three-touchdown season. However, Ward’s numbers could be much better than that.

As he continues to gain Wentz’s trust, he’ll likely become one of the quarterback’s go-to options on the outside. With Nelson Agholor set to hit the free-agent market, Ward could be Philadelphia’s No. 2 wideout across from Alshon Jeffery.

Ward is due only $675,000 in 2020, per Spotrac, and scheduled to be a free agent in 2021. Agholor, of course, is gone after inking a cheap one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. He’ll be looking to repair his reputation following a tough 2019 campaign in Philly. Agholor was one of the best slot guys in the NFL in 2017. Meanwhile, Jeffery remains on the roster.

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TJ Edwards Mentioned as Breakout Candidate

The other name garnering momentum for a breakout season is T.J. Edwards. The second-year linebacker was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2019 and earned an 84.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

Edwards, a player being groomed to start in Philly, recorded 30 total tackles last season in 16 games (four starts). The Wisconsin product saw 112 defensive snaps and 334 on special teams while proving to be one of the hardest hitters on the roster. Here is what Pro Football Focus wrote about the 240-pounder:

Arguably the least proven player on the list, T.J. Edwards nevertheless earned an 86.6 overall PFF grade as a rookie, which would rank him among the best linebackers in the game if he played than just 112 total snaps. Why this is interesting, though, is that he had back-to-back seasons with a grade above 90.0 in his final two seasons at Wisconsin before going undrafted due to mediocre measurables and athletic profile. His NFL preseason grade was also consistently good, meaning Edwards has been an exceptionally productive linebacker at every level we have seen. He also excelled in coverage — unusual for a player with athletic limitations. He has a real shot to start for the Eagles this season and could be one of the surprise breakout players in 2020.

Ironically, Edwards was named one of the most exciting undrafted rookie free agents by both Bleacher Report and Pro Football Focus coming out of college. The hype train just keeps growing for this kid.

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