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Doug Pederson says new Eagles wide receiver coach has “lit a fire” under Nelson Agholor

Just what was needed.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Year 3 of his career, it’s only fair that the expectations for Nelson Agholor are very low. The 2015 first round pick has arguably been one of the worst wide receivers in the NFL over the past two seasons ... and maybe the worst.

But maybe there actually is some hope that he can turn it around? I’m certainly not counting on it; I’ve been a vocal Agholor skeptic. He did have a nice first day of OTA practice, though, which isn’t nothing.

You probably won’t believe me — and I don’t blame you at all — but I think Nelson Agholor might have had his best practice I’ve ever seen today. I didn’t see him drop or bobble a single pass. He actually made some tough catches and ran crisp routes. Agholor has a long, long way to go before he’s seen as a good receiver. But this was a good start for Day 1.

And it’s not like Agholor is one of those players who usually looks good in practice and struggles in games. After watching all of his practices (that were open to the media) since he was drafted, I can tell you that there’s always been so much more bad than good with him. That’s why his encouraging performance in Tuesday’s practice really took me by surprise.

It’s very possible that it was just one good practice and Agholor goes back to struggling next week and beyond. It’s also possible the addition of new Eagles wide receiver coach Mike Groh is benefiting Agholor, who turns 24 years old today. At least that’s what Doug Pederson suggested (bold emphasis mine).

Listen, Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason. The addition of Mike Groh has really sort of lit a fire with Nelson a little bit, and then the addition with Alshon [Jeffery] and Torrey [Smith] and bringing these guys in. As I've said all along, competition, man, sharpens you. And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring.

Groh’s vocal presence was hard to miss during Tuesday’s practice. In fairness, 2016 wide receiver coach Greg Lewis was also pretty loud and talkative, but the former NFL wide receiver was less heralded and less experienced as a coach than Groh. Maybe Groh has just done a better job of getting through to Agholor.

Look, it’s very early. It’s only May. The pads haven’t come on yet. Any player can have one good practice. I wouldn’t count on Agholor suddenly becoming a good player just yet. I will say that I’m a little optimistic than I was before, though. At the very least, he’s off to a good start this offseason, and that’s something he really needed.

Watch Doug Pederson’s Tuesday press conference via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page (click here or watch below).

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson speaking before the first OTA practice!

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Full transcript below.

Q. Who is going to be first team … I know it’s early, but who do you like at left guard right now? (Jeff McLane)

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, right now, [we are] going to work [G] Isaac Seumalo in there. Let him get an opportunity to work in the rotation with that first unit.

Q. Why did you make that decision to go with Seumalo? (Dave Zangaro)

DOUG PEDERSON: Well, [he is] obviously a kid that we picked up last year in the draft. And then [G/T] Allen Barbre right now [is] still nursing a calf, lower body injury there. So, this gives him an opportunity to work in with that first group so we can get Allen … Listen, Allen is a guy that, as you guys know, [is] one of the those versatile offensive linemen that can play guard and tackle. When we get Allen back, too, we want to work him not only at guard, but also at tackle.

Q. Is everybody here? (Howard Eskin)

DOUG PEDERSON: No. We’ve got three guys that aren't here – [DT] Fletcher Cox is not here; [P] Donnie Jones and [T] Jason Peters are not here. Obviously, as you guys know, too, it's a voluntary offseason program. I've been in touch with all three of those guys and we've communicated for the reasons for them not being here. But [there are] no worries with them going forward.

Q. What were their reasons? Did they give you any? (Howard Eskin)

DOUG PEDERSON: No. Specifically some of them are just personal reasons. Again, being on a voluntary schedule like this, it's a little bit out of my control. Again, these guys have also participated in our offseason program up to this point, and I expect them to continue that way.

Q. Is C Jason Kelce going to take all the first-team snaps at center, or is C/G Stefen Wisniewski going to get in there as well? (Zach Berman)

DOUG PEDERSON: Right now going forward Jason is the guy, and then we will continue to work Wiz [Stefen Wisniewski] along with Isaac [Seumalo]; try to get Isaac some snaps, too. Again, just as we evaluate, and that's kind of what we're doing now through OTAs is evaluating our guys … But Kelce will definitely get the majority of the reps.

Q. What are your expectations for Agholor? (Mike Sielski)

DOUG PEDERSON: The expectation is for him to compete – to compete to play, compete to start, compete to be a role player on this football team, help us win football games. That's my expectation with guys like Nelson, and really with all the team members. Just to be unselfish, but yet be disciplined and compete to play.

Q. How has LB Mychal Kendricks' attitude been throughout the spring, despite the fact that he’s been mentioned in trade rumors? (Jeff McLane)

DOUG PEDERSON: No, Mychal, with everything that was rumored with him, Mychal has had a great attitude. Great attitude. He's come in here, he's worked extremely hard. He knows our system. One of the things that … Again, so many offenses are going 11 personnel, it's unfortunate. It takes him off the field. But the things he’s done this spring already really puts him in a position to solidify our three linebackers.

Q. I know it's really early, but what do you envision at the running back position for this season? Do you initially, first thought, think running back rotation? RB LeGarrette Blount, how many carries do you think he could possible get? (John Clark)

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it's hard to put a number on the actual carries because we don't play a game for quite some time. But in LeGarrette's defense, he's coming in trying to learn our offense. I want to get him out there as often as I can, get him working with [QB] Carson [Wentz] as often as I can, along with [RBs] Wendell [Smallwood], Darren [Sproles] – keep working that combination. Again, evaluating that group, there are a lot of different possibilities that I see as a head coach, and really as an offensive coach going forward. [There are] some good combinations with that running back group that we can put a couple guys out there on the field at the same time. But in LeGarrette's sense right now, [we are] just getting him caught up and up to speed with what we're doing offensively.

Q. Who goes in as your starting cornerbacks this camp? (Paul Jolovitz)

DOUG PEDERSON: You're going to see [CB] Jalen [Mills] out there. You're going to see [CB] Patrick Robinson out there. Those are the guys that we've brought in, Patrick this year and Jalen last year, to be those guys. They'll be the ones working with that first unit.

Q. Because you added all the skill position guys like Alshon and LeGarrette, how valuable are the OTAs then for Carson to kind of get to know those guys and vice versa? (Martin Frank)

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, they're real valuable, especially the last three weeks, not going against the defense or not having a defense out there. Just to be able to work on timing, accuracy, the decision-making process with the receivers and quarterbacks, getting them on the same page [and] getting them as many reps as they can. So, now when we start OTAs today, things will be sort of second nature for them. Just build that rapport going into training camp and the season.

Q. With the wide receivers that you have and are trying to work in this year, what would be kind of like a reasonable timetable to get the rapport that you need to start the season? (Nick Fierro)

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it's a fine line. I mean, having played the position and working with new guys even in my career, it takes time. It takes time to develop, and sometimes time that you don't have with the way the offseason is structured. But these guys also worked a little bit beyond the in-house rules, so to speak, here where they were able to work on their own, work together, and even before OTAs, even before the offseason started. They have to continue that even through the summer months once they leave. But we'll get more time in training camp. That's why it's so important to get these guys and keep them together as units going through training camp and really on into preseason.

Q. You added two receivers in free agency and then you drafted two more obviously. And on top of that, last year you guys re-signed about a half-dozen guys that were already on the team to contract extensions. So, looking at WR Jordan Matthews and his future with the team, do you see him as sort of a long-term stable on the Eagles? (Jimmy Kempski)

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, you know, Jordan has been a big part of this offense, and he is still a big part of this offense. He's got a great relationship and a great rapport with Carson [Wentz], and Carson feels very comfortable with him. Getting him back out there, getting him out there healthy going forward, is beneficial to the success of our offense. He's a tremendous slot receiver. That's kind of where I see him fitting in, even though he can play outside. It's just a matter of getting him and Carson, year two, on the same page. He's a big part of our offense.

Q. What have you seen out of Carson? He spent some time working with a passing coach this offseason. What have you seen through the practices so far? (Matt Lombardo)

DOUG PEDERSON: Well, the biggest thing I've seen, number one, is leadership. He's come in here ready to go. He's come in here eager, excited about the offseason, working with the new guys and the guys from last year. That's what I've seen. I've seen him sort of come in rejuvenated. Last year at this time he had played a bunch of football. He was coming off his world tour. He had just been drafted. Now he's had a chance to just kind of sit back and look at the regular season last year and make the necessary adjustments and corrections and learn from it. Those are the things that we're seeing through Phase II, and now we'll see it carry over into Phase III.

Q. What about his footwork? What has changed? (Jeff McLane)

DOUG PEDERSON: It's subtle. That's the thing. We're going to see it as coaches. You may not see it as a spectator watching the game. It's just pointing his toe, it's getting him on his target line, things that we talk about each and every day that [quarterbacks] coach [John] DeFilippo does a good job with. And those are the things we continue to work on.

Q. You mentioned using combinations with your running backs on the field at the same time possibly this year. That's something you didn't do much of last year. What has changed? The personnel? Or do you want to mix up the offense a little bit? (Paul Domowitch)

DOUG PEDERSON: Well, it's a little of both. It’s a little bit of both. You self-evaluate and you self-scheme what you did last year. I got to find out, one, where and how LeGarrette [Blount] fits. We know what Darren [Sproles] can do. We know what Wendell [Smallwood] can do. You’ve got [RB] Donnel Pumphrey sitting there. I want to see what he can do. There are some combinations with some backs there. And then even [RB] Byron Marshall, cross-training Byron Marshall, as we've talked about already this spring. Utilizing a couple of those guys because they're nifty, they're quick. They can be a matchup issue for linebackers or safeties. I just want to check those things out. Now is the time to do that before we get too deep into training camp.

Q. Over these next four weeks, what would you like to see from Alshon? (Zach Berman)

DOUG PEDERSON: Just what he's already done, and that's just steady improvement in the offense. He's a big target. He's really stood out in Phase II running routes. Big guy, big catch radius. Now going against actual defenders, being able to carry that through in these next four weeks.

Q. You as a coach, what are the biggest differences in your abilities from last year to where you sit today? (Zach Gelb)

DOUG PEDERSON: I think the biggest thing is just confidence in what we're doing. Going into year two, just having that overall strength of putting the offseason schedule together, knowing our players, knowing our personnel, utilizing the matchups that I've mentioned already and building off of that. And then just the overall confidence of what we're doing schematically has really helped me this spring and going forward.

Q. In Fletcher’s case, the organization expects a lot out of him. Are you disappointed with him not being here, or is the reason satisfactory? (Zach Berman)

DOUG PEDERSON: Well, the reason is satisfactory. Again, it's a voluntary program. I would love for everybody to be here. That's just me, personally. I would love everybody to be here. I know it's not always going to work out that way. But, you know, Fletcher's one of the leaders on the football team. Guys like that, you do expect to be here. I get the rules. We abide by the rules. He's one of the guys, too, that at the end of the day, I'm going to hang my hat on and go to war with.

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