From Practice Squad to Production; Eagles Trio Keeps NFC East Dream Alive
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - You saw the poster child of NFL sentimentality on Monday night in South Philadelphia.
The New York Giants were two years late from being two years late when they finally benched two-time Super Bowl-winner Eli Manning for Daniel Jones earlier this season with the former only getting to take a bow and lose for the 10th time in 11 tries to the Eagles because of the latter's ankle injury.
Philadelphia has had its own issues with sentiment this season in the form of players like Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, and Jay Ajayi, taking on a "Back to the Future" mentality before finally pulling the trigger on younger legs due to the necessity of injury and ineffectiveness.
And just as the season was circling the drain along with the persistent rain at Lincoln Financial Field Monday, the unheralded stepped up from Boson Scott to Greg Ward to Josh Perkins.
The production Doug Pederson and Mike Groh got from that former practice-squad trio against the Giants kept the Eagles alive in the NFC East title hunt which figures to boil down to a Week 16 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
During the week Scott and Perkins played different roles, servicing the defense on the scout team while in-game injuries pressed them into action with the live bullets flying in what turned into a 23-17 overtime win for Philadelphia.
Scott was Saquon Barkey in practice and on Monday he actually outperformed the New York star with 128 all-purpose yards, almost all of them in crunch time.
Perkins was pretending to be Giants tight end Evan Engram, who didn't even play due to his own foot injury, only becoming relevant when Alshon Jeffery went down with a season-ending foot injury. A former college receiver at the University of Washington, Perkins was thrust into a hybrid flex role, part tight end, and part slot receiver, snaring all five of his targets from Carson Wentz for 37 yards.
Ward, a former quarterback at the University of Houston who was playing Russell Wilson in practice a few weeks ago, had already graduated from scout team duty due to prior injuries.
"I don't know if surprised is fair," Groh said when asked about the performances. "But it certainly was exciting to see."
Scott was the best of the bunch, bringing significant juice to what had been a moribund offense with his speed and athleticism.
"He brought an energy, got out there and made people miss," Groh explained. "Made some exciting, loud plays. Got the fans energized and excited, got his teammates excited. He really provided the spark and I think people fed off of that, I really do."
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Perkins said he was "pretty comfortable playing both” receiver and tight end, leaning on his experience from college when it came to playing outside.
“I think I played well," Perkins assessed at his locker on Wednesday. "Hopefully, I can get in there some more.”
As for Ward he has spent parts of the past three seasons on the Eagles PS and the spring playing in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football with San Antonio Commanders, all while trying to make the transition from a dual-threat signal caller to polished wideout.
"You could see the skills of a receiver, but obviously making the transition at this level and everything that that entails, it's been a lot of fun to watch him develop and his confidence grow," Groh said.
Since being inserted into the offense Ward has 11 receptions for 79 yards, although he did drop a likely touchdown from Went against the Giants which would have been his biggest play to date.
“I feel like I have a long way to go –- an extremely long way to go -- but I’m here to stay,” Ward insisted.
This Sunday in Washington, 6-foot-3 receiver Rob Davis, Georgia State's all-time leading pass-catcher, may turn the trio into a quartet after being elevated from the PS to replace Jeffery on the roster.
Winning the NFC East with players like that as centerpieces would go a long way to secure some futures.
"That's what we expect," Groh said. "And we've talked about that here, in that those guys have got to be prepared. We expect for the level of play to stay the same. And those guys [Scott, Perkins, and Ward] -- it was really fun. That's one of the rewarding things about coaching is seeing guys go out there and make those plays, which they did to help us win. So we have to continue to sustain that and put another good plan together this week."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen