The Eagles receiving corp has been totally reshaped this off-season. From the release of Riley Cooper to the acquisitions of Chris Givens and Reuben Randle, the unit looks to have an entirely new shape as we head towards a new season..but one common criticism continues to rise, the lack of a deep threat.
Many analysts are the first to point out that the Eagles need a receiver who can consistently make plays deep down the field and the position is often highlighted in Mock Drafts. However, the Eagles may already have the player they’re looking for. The problem is, he wasn’t shown anywhere near as much attention in his rookie season as he should have.
I’m of course talking about Nelson Agholor. The USC product had a fairly mediocre season on the surface, receiving for 283 yards and a single touchdown on 23 receptions. But the film tells an entirely different story. The story of a receiver who was consistently able to separate (dispelling another common complaint among writers when evaluating the position) and create plenty of opportunities deep down the field yet was very rarely noticed.
The story begins in Sam Bradford’s first win as an Eagle, against the New York Jets. The Jets came into the matchup with an intimidating Defense looking to pry apart an Eagles team who simply couldn’t get rolling. There was a lot of attention given to Eric Rowe being stranded on Megatron island in the Eagles loss to the Lions but Nelson Agholor was left alone on Revis island..and survived.
Nelson Agholor beats Darrelle Revis off the snap, gets past him but Sam Bradford's pass is off. May have been a TD. pic.twitter.com/ThWNeNsHGC
— ➕GMI (@ADDGMI) September 30, 2015
This wasn’t the only time that the rookie was able to upstage a team who dominated Defensively. Agholor was able to establish separation at the edge of the end-zone, the pass resulted in an incompletion as Bradford attempted to search out Jordan Matthews.
Below is another example of Agholor escaping Revis island and unfortunately another example of a pass heading elsewhere. The rookie’s ability to beat cornerback’s off the line is extremely impressive and arguably one of his best attributes along with his speed. But an Offense that gave the Quarterback very little in the way of audibles and control was the achilles heel for one of the Eagles most dangerous weapons.
A list of the Eagles players with the most targets during the 2015 season is enough to reveal just how under utilized the Eagles’ first round pick of the 2015 Draft truly was. Agholor accounted for just 7.06% of the teams overall targets. That’s not the most disappointing statistic though. Agholor lined up in 670 Offensive snaps last season..58% of the teams total. He was targeted just 44 times.
If you’re still not satisfied however, here are a list of players (excluding RB’s) who were targeted over 35 times and their average yards gained per reception. Agholor may have a much smaller sample size, but he’s still able to gain more than a first down on average per reception.
Unfortunately, most games Agholor played in carried a similar personal narrative to that of the win over the Jets. Even a change in Quarterback wasn’t enough to see Agholor become a more prominent factor in the Offense. The red circle is where Mark Sanchez threw the ball (Jordan Matthews) and the yellow circle highlights Nelson Agholor. As you can see, Agholor had his man beaten moments before the pass and was heading into a wide open spot over the middle as the Lions retained their focus on the route of Jordan Matthews.
He may not be the most explosive receiver on the roster and Agholor like everyone else had his fair share of issues when it came to drops. The Redskins game was extremely telling as he caught a huge pass down the middle of the field before fumbling on the very next play..but he’s a rookie and rookies need space to grow. Something that Chip’s high-tempo Offense didn’t really allow much room for.
So, the trend continued. Game..
Agholor never really broke out as many hoped he would in his rookie season. There were some stunning highlights that were overshadowed by some simple mistakes and situations that only allowed for minimal expression such as the dreaded screen passes.
But in a new Offense that is looking for a player who an make explosive plays deep down the field and with Matthews making a transition to the outside, Agholor might finally be given an opportunity to do what he does best. Beat cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage and create countless problems downfield for opposing Defenses.
photo credit: RICH GRAESSLE/ICON SPORTSWIRE