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Nelson Agholor’s breakthrough should come against depleted Jaguars

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Time for Nelly to take center stage...

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What’s wrong with Nelson Agholor? Perhaps nothing, but it’s a question many are asking and one that can be silenced in what should be a plus match-up for Agholor this Sunday.

The glaring statistic that pops out with Agholor right now is his yards per catch. Down nearly a full 4 yards from last year, his 8.5 average has been a reason for concern. Doug Pederson recently spoke about his usage and how a lot of it has to do with play-calling and how defenses are preparing for him. From Alexis Chassen’s piece covering the press conference:

“He was later asked about the change in scheme for Agholor this season, and Pederson acknowledged it was the product of two things. One, is the plays being called, and whether it’s a run or RPO, and the other is the head coach calling Agholor-specific plays and getting him targeted.

Pederson went on to say that those decisions have nothing to do with Agholor’s ability or skill, and then confirmed that they are still very confident in the wideout. He also noted that Agholor is one of the guys they design plays for each week, and it’s up to Pederson to make those calls.”

Some of that average can also be attributed to a tough draw with a condensed game-plan before injuries destroyed the Atlanta Falcons. That game alone drops his average by 1.4 compared to the rest of the season. Looking beyond the straight numbers, Agholor was locked in a battle against Robert Alford and despite a low output, had some quality wins. One of those came on a 3rd & 7 conversion that was a microcosm of the entire game for him in terms of the tight coverage he was facing.

On top of his pedestrian average, his red zone and deep targets are down, hauling in only one touchdown and one pass over over 20 yards this year. This can change against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are emaciated at cornerback due to injuries.

“On paper, Agholor’s matchup is strongest in Philly’s pass-catcher corps versus a Jaguars defense that got burned by fellow slot WR Cole Beasley (9/101/2) in Week 6 and resorted to using rookie SS Ronnie Harrison at slot corner last week with [DJ Hayden] and [Tyler Patmon] on the shelf.” - Evan Silva, RotoWorld

It’s been confirmed that Patmon will not dress in London and the Jaguars’ personnel responses to 12/13 personnel lean heavy towards big nickel looks. Each week Pro Football Focus projects WR/DB match-ups and have the rookie safety Harrison tabbed as the man most responsible for covering Agholor.

In coverage, Harrison has notched 64 passing play snaps, with 9 targets, 6 receptions allowed for 46 yards. He lodged 15 snaps covering slot receivers last week and allowed 2 catches for 18 yards. Not bad, but at his peak Agholor is one of the top slot receivers in the game. Is he still peaking or will this game only prove to raise more questions?

One example of where I found Harrison lacking the chops to stay leveraged against layered routes was from quarters coverage, where he loses his bearings watching the quarterback and underneath action on 3rd & 11.

Along with Hatmon missing from the lineup, Hayden being doubtful means that when the Eagles go with two tight ends, Agholor could see his outside reps come against rookie UDFA Quenton Meeks. Buried on the depth chart until now, Meeks has seen a full two snaps all year. The Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff should recognize this plus match-up and go out of their way to exploit it.

If Agholor finds paydirt and makes a couple of splash plays, all of this worry about his game may have been for nothing. Even then it might not be what it looks like, but will require a further dive into his game. My guess is Agholor will be just fine; he’s bounced back from tougher stretches than this.