The rookie struggles of Nelson Agholor have been well-documented. The 2015 first round pick fell way short of the Offensive Rookie of the Year hype surrounding his name shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him last offseason.
Things haven't gone all that much better for Agholor since the 2015 season ended. The 23-year-old struggled with drops during spring practices earlier this year. He also had an off-the-field issue arise.
The good news for Agholor is that he seems to have slowly started to turn things around in training camp. He hasn't been perfect by any means, but there are less obvious mistakes. Agholor has also earned praise from the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
"I think there is something to that," said Reich when asked about the progress in players from Year 1 to Year 2. "You see that in receivers, and I think a lot of that is just a confidence and the game slows down. Those two go hand in hand. So, we've said it all offseason that that's our expectation of Nelson."
"One thing that does pop up on the film, even just in a couple practices here with the pads on, he's got a quickness off the line of scrimmage, he has some vertical speed to challenge it deep, and he just has very good footwork. In this league, you have to be able to beat press coverage. You have to, have to, have to beat press coverage. And he has a natural ability to get off the line versus press, and he's got to be able to use that to his advantage to help our team."
But if this ability is so apparent with Agholor, why didn't he have success last year?
"I will say this, the film that I saw last year I saw flashes of it," Reich insisted. "So, we come in and I said, ‘This guy can beat press coverage. He can get off the line of scrimmage versus press coverage.’ So, I didn't really get into evaluating their scheme and what they were trying to do a whole lot, but you could see flashes of it."
"And a lot of times when you’re in that tempo offense that they were in you don't get quite as much press coverage, they play a little softer just trying to get lined up because they were going so fast. I would anticipate he'll have more opportunities to do that this year."
The Eagles desperately need their young wide receivers to step up this season. The offense sorely lacks proven play-makers. Even if Agholor can't develop into a star talent, merely becoming a respectable threat would be step in the right direction.
Watch Reich's Monday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page.
On his impression of the Eagles’ wide receivers corps:
FRANK REICH: The receiver group has a lot of energy. One of the things you look for in a receiver group is an unselfishness, because that's the way you get better. There's only one ball, and there's three, four guys going after a route, so we want to be able to evaluate every play all the time, whether the ball's coming to them or not. And I've always found over the years that you can get a lot out of evaluation even in a short period of time. You want to see an unselfishness just in their attitude and you’re kind of pulling for the other guys and the excitement and energy. And then there’s always that -- part of the evaluation process is, ‘Can you run all day? Can you run all day and can you go when you're tired?’ That's what we're in the process of getting into right now.
Q. Are they catching the ball the way you’d like?
FRANK REICH: Well, as a coach, you don't want any drops, so, no, you want 100 percent catches. So, yeah, that's something that you get in a groove. We've always got to demand the best of ourselves. We expect perfection.
Q. What part of QB Sam Bradford's game has impressed you the most?
FRANK REICH: His accuracy, timing. I think one of Sam's strengths -- he's got many -- but he keeps it really simple. It's not because he has to, it's because that's the best way to play football. You want to have a sophisticated understanding of everything, but yet still keep it simple, and that's really what we try to teach and engrain in the guys. When you teach a system and when you teach all the options that are available, you tell a quarterback, ‘Here are all the options; here's the progression; here’s all the protection checks.’ But his job is to keep it simple, to see the coverage, but yet to narrow it down in his progression, because at the end of the day, it's about match-ups. It's about finding little windows. And I think he has a very instinctive and natural way of doing that, and then he's accurate with the ball.
Q. G Brandon Brooks has missed a week now, five practices. At what point does this concern you, considering the offensive line?
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I mean, offensive line is probably the one area -- I mean, every area, but certainly they've got to gel together. And they're in pads now, so you want them out there. But the last thing I would say to Brandon is I wouldn't want him to rush. You don't want him to rush it because we need him for the long haul. So, you don't want to do anything stupid. You've got to be patient, trust the trainers [and] trust Brandon. But certainly you don't like to miss any time.
Q. How about C/G Stefen Wisniewski? How is he looking to you?
FRANK REICH: Wisniewski's looked great. I mean, he’s really looked good. He's incredibly smart. He's very stout. Yeah, he's been -- I don't want to say a surprise. That's why we signed him. But he's met and exceeded expectations.
Q. What about your young running backs? What do you see from them? They're all kind of the same guy, build-wise. How do you differentiate?
FRANK REICH: Yeah, I mean, I think [Wendell] Smallwood maybe has a little more size to him, but I think he has really good vision. He's patient in the hole, but then he's got speed through the hole. Kenjon [Barner], I think is a really good, all-around back. He can make you miss in the open field. I like his vision. He's doing great in protections. I've been very impressed with him the whole offseason. Of course, when we got here everyone was in my ear about how good this guy is going to be a player, and that's what we're seeing. [Byron] Marshall has really showed me a couple things here the last couple days. I think he has natural running ability in the open field. He's very elusive, and you see good instincts and vision by him. Ced's [Cedric O’Neal] got a little more size to him; plays a little bigger; plays a little more stout. And then of course Ryan's [Mathews] not been on the field yet, but it's a good group. It's a good group.
[Darren] Sproles is, I mean, Sproles is Sproles. He's the best.
Q. With RB Byron Marshall, how big of a deal was it that he missed so much time in the spring while he was finishing school? Is he still trying to figure things out more than the other running backs?
FRANK REICH: Seems like he's caught up pretty quick. I haven't really noticed a whole bunch of mental errors. He's done a good job and Duce [Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley] has done a good job with him and kind of keeping it all tight and consistent. But he's looked good. You can't do anything about what he's missed, you've just got to make sure you accelerate the process now.
Q. In regards to the fullback or H-back position, what players do you think might transition there that haven’t already?
FRANK REICH: Well, we've got Chris [TE Chris Pantale] and Trey [TE Trey Burton] working there. You can always work an offensive lineman in. It just depends. With the roster, when you get down to 53 [players], it gets tough. So you always hope you have one offensive lineman or sometimes even a defensive lineman that you can bring in and use in special situations. But we expect Chris and Trey to carry the bulk of that load. It's not a huge part of what we do, but it's definitely something that we have a system of plays for our two-back stuff that they've got to be in there for.
Q. At left guard, will you mix more players in there with your first team? Or is that G/T Allen Barbre’s job to lose?
FRANK REICH: I mean, it’s a competition. Allen’s a starter right now, but like every position, it's competitive. Allen has done a great job. I’ve been very impressed with Allen and very impressed with the whole offensive line as a group. It’s funny, when I look at the O-line, and obviously you have to evaluate them individually, but there is a side of it [where you have to evaluate them as] a unit and they've just got to work together. At some level, and in my experience, they've got to be interchangeable parts. So Doug [Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson) and I really rely on Stout [Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] a lot to get those guys to where you can really mix and move parts and you've got to cross-train them because guys get dinged and they're out for a game or two. So, they, as a unit, have to continue to cross-train and we have to continue to mix guys in at all those positions.
Q. When you look at the final 53-man roster, with the offensive line, what is the comfortable number that you'd like to maybe keep?
FRANK REICH: That's really, I mean, [I] always want as many as we can, but that really comes down to Doug and Howie [Eagles Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman] making that decision on how the roster will shape out in the end.
Q. Doug Pederson talked about teaching these guys during practice: stopping it, correcting it. Do you get more from corrections on the field or do you get more from corrections in the meeting rooms?
FRANK REICH: Yeah, it's both. As far as corrections on the field and how you handle them, there are philosophies. Some coaches say, ‘Let them play; we'll correct it in the film room.’ I'm really am all in on Doug's belief and philosophy and system of making quick corrections on the field. Don't belabor it. But immediate feedback -- there is nothing like immediate feedback. But you've got to find the balance. And that’s where he as the head coach, he reigns us in. He doesn't want us to go crazy with corrections on the field, but he wants quick immediate feedback. Then in the film room, we can kind of talk it out more with the players.
Q. Do you feel like you have the overall athleticism to do everything that you want to do with the structure of this offense?
FRANK REICH: Absolutely. You look at how this system performed in Kansas City over the last three years [and they were a] playoff team. So I think we're going to be very strong up front. We're very strong at quarterback. Our running back and wide receiver mix, we've got play makers. But it's got to develop. It’s got to develop. Obviously, we're always going to be optimistic, but I just know you can't assume anything. I've got to see it day-in and day-out on the practice field and then when game time comes, we've got to see who those guys are that are going to step up in the big moments.
Q. Howie Roseman said in the offseason that he wanted to bring in more speed at the receiver position and bring in guys who can stretch the field. Who have you seen so far that can do that?
FRANK REICH: Well, T.J. [WR T.J. Graham] got dinged early, but he's got speed. [WR] Chris Givens has good speed. He's a guy who has proven he can get vertical and make plays down the field in this league. [WR] Marcus Johnson is a young guy [who’s] got speed. Jordan [WR Jordan Matthews] made a nice play. The speed thing is funny. There is definitely raw speed, and you can't coach it and you can't buy it. But there are also ways -- There are just certain guys that have a knack, and there are a lot of ways to kind of scheme things up to try to get guys down the field.
So we've got to do that. And then at times it's going to come down to having somebody that has the raw speed to run by somebody. But there are not many times in this league that you're running 5 yards behind people. It’s about finding little windows, making accurate throws and as a receiver, using good leverage, having a good move at the line of scrimmage and creating something down field for them that they can find a little window down the field.
Q. What did you see out of QB Carson Wentz today?
FRANK REICH: Carson's been good. He's had a great start, in my opinion. His grasp of the offense is as good as you can expect for this time. Fundamentally, he looks rock solid. He’s always getting better and he’s throwing the ball well. So, very pleased with his progress.