Jordan Matthews has been a name that’s been floated out in trade rumors this offseason, and for good reason. Matthews has produced OK numbers in an offense that has force fed him the ball, and as a result he’ll likely ask for a contract that’s far above his actual value. It’s common sense that teams want value for a player, as opposed to letting him walk, look no further than Timmy Jernigan. The Ravens knew they would be unable to re-sign him, so they flipped him for a third round pick swap. It only makes sense to try and trade Matthews before you ultimately let him walk, unless he’s actually Jahlil Okafor, then you pay somebody to take him.
There may actually be another reason to move Matthews sooner rather than later, and it coincides with a player that’s currently below him on the depth chart, Nelson Agholor. Agholor, the much-maligned receiver, has garnered the wrath of Eagles fans since his disappointing rookie and sophomore seasons and it’s easy to understand why. Agholor has negatively impacted the team with his poor play, but alas, there may be a change on the horizon. During OTAs, one of the main storylines was the apparent improvement of Agholor under new wide receiver coach Mike Groh. For the first week, Agholor was behind Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Matthews on the depth chart, but after an injury to Matthews, Agholor took his place in the slot and the early returns appear to be encouraging!
Nelson Agholor still working at first team slot with JMatt out. Just burned the defense for a deep TD. Good throw from Carson Wentz. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) June 8, 2017
Nelson Agholor burned Jalen Mills deep and Wentz hit the WR for a TD. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) May 30, 2017
That i have eggplants for Agholor in the slot.... god Im a sad human— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) June 8, 2017
Again, all of this was accomplished in OTAs, but it’s fair to ask if the slot is a better position for Agholor. Our own Jonny Page made an interesting remark about Nelson Agholor’s outlook before the 2015 NFL Draft.
Remember Agholor was not a can't miss outside receiver coming out of college. Plenty of draft guys saw him as a slot receiver only.— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) June 14, 2017
Jonny did an excellent job highlighting Agholor’s strengths and weaknesses last year when he took a look back at his rookie season.
“This is what Agholor should have been running all year. He’s so much better at these shorter routes than he is at deeper routes currently. Watching this makes me think he would be pretty effective in the slot actually. Watch how quick the 4 steps are before he cuts inside, his feet are so quick. I have no idea why we didn’t use him in the slot at all last year to at least try and get him the ball more.”
Agholor’s current skillset seems to fit the slot, arguably better than that of his peer Jordan Matthews. One of the most frustrating things about Matthews is that he lacks the quickness and athleticism of your typical slot receiver. You can pick out a handful of plays from 2016 where the Eagles attempted to run bubble screens and quick outs with Matthews, but he isn't exactly the most nimble in space. This is where Nelson Agholor comes in. Coming out of college, Agholor drew comparisons to former Eagle Jeremy Maclin and current Green Bay Packer Randall Cobb. Athletically, both comparisons are elusive in space and possess YAC ability that makes them dynamic weapons. Agholor possesses the quickness and agility to execute the plays that Doug Pederson likes to run. One example is the dagger concept, which Jonny outlined a few weeks ago. With this route combination, the slot receiver is responsible for clearing out the linebacker and deep safety so that the square in route comes open. The slot receiver running the go route isn't the first read on the play, but in the case of the Redskins game, he became the only viable option. Nobody is mistaking Jordan Matthews as a deep threat, but that’s something Agholor is able to do. The Eagles have searched for a vertical threat since Maclin’s departure in 2015, but perhaps they've had it lined up in the wrong place.
It’s no secret Agholor has struggled his first two years, but is that necessarily a fault of his own? The wide open drops are absolutely on Agholor, as are the mental mistakes and penalties that have cost the Eagles touchdowns, but has he been put in the best position to succeed? That’s a question to ask as we move into a make-or-break year for the third year receiver. The unfortunate part for Agholor, is that he may not consistently be put in that position until Jordan Matthews is no longer apart of this team.