The biggest surprise from the Eagles’ 2017 spring practices has to be the progress of Nelson Agholor. The 2015 first-round pick has been nothing but a disappointment to this point in his career. But he finally showed some promise in OTAs and minicamp.
Don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s what Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had to say.
Yeah, I got to tell you, he's been explosive in there. He's made some big plays for us in there this spring. His confidence level is high right now and [I am] excited to see him grow in that position. It's been valuable for him [...] A lot of times it's a personal … You're going through a whole mental thought process and, ‘What can I do to get better?’ It's just him going out there and just attacking the day, and [wide receivers coach] Mike Groh has done a great job with him, just preparing him. The addition of Torrey [Smith] and Alshon [Jeffery], and sort of him kind of taking that step back and not [having] that pressure of every day having to perform has really helped him. I'm excited to now get into camp and extend his role. Hopefully they are in the slot and outside, as well. It's a multiple-position player that we can utilize on offense.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was also effusive in his praise for Agholor.
On the field, he’s always been an explosive guy. But boy, it sure seems like he may have gotten quicker and more explosive this offseason. He’s out there, he’s getting open. He’s getting open, making plays, and it’s good to see. As far as the confidence goes, I’ve always thought he was a confident player. This spring I think it’s come to maybe another level. It’s good to get him going along.
I’ve watched every practice (that has been open to the media) of Agholor’s career. I can safely say he looks better than he ever has. He’s not dropping routine catches. He’s not lining up incorrectly. Rather, he’s regularly burning the defense. He’s making tough, contested catches in traffic. He’s getting open and making himself reliable to Wentz. Most importantly, perhaps, he’s not just producing a flash play here and there — he’s showing consistency.
All of this is a big step forward from how bad Agholor has looked in the past. It’s really not crazy to say he’s been the worst wide receiver in the NFL (or at least one of them) over the past two seasons. For him to show this kind of competency, it’s surprising.
It would be naive to think Agholor is suddenly going to be a superstar. You can’t just wash away all the negative like it didn’t happen. The realistic expectation should be that Agholor might be able to be a competent NFL receiver, which is a big upgrade from before. Even if he can just be merely average, that’d be nice.
Still skeptical about Agholor? I certainly don’t blame you. But I do think there is something different about him. Well, actually, there are multiple different things. He has a new jersey number now (No. 13 instead of No. 17). He cut his hair. He has a new wide receiver coach. He’s not in the spotlight as a main receiving target now that Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are in the fold. He’s taking more reps in the slot as opposed to the outside.
The reality is Agholor’s performance in spring practice could be rendered meaningless if he continues to struggle when it counts: in the real games. A lot of players can look good in spring practice when players aren’t wearing pads and there’s no contact allowed.
Agholor still has a lot to prove. But at the very least this offseason has been an encouraging sign.