Nelson Agholor’s NFL career so far has been bumpy to say the least. From a vastly underwhelming rookie season (although that could be due to Chip Kelly refusing to get him more targets), to a troubled offseason that was filled with off-the-field controversy and a Summer of uncertainty with the Eagles receiver corps ever-changing. But when all was said and done, Agholor remained a starter on the outside..however even that now seems to be in jeopardy.
The emergence of mismatch nightmare Dorial Green-Beckham has certainly fueled a fire..and with his snaps ever increasing along with his scheme familiarity, the pressure placed on the shoulders of former first round pick Nelson Agholor is more intense than ever..but how has he performed so far, and is he actually in danger of sliding down the depth chart?
The main problem I had with Agholor last year is that he was inconsistent in crucial areas. As a route runner, exceptional. A pass-catcher..not so much. It’s those inconsistencies that seemed to haunt him on big plays and as a result see his targets spread elsewhere to more reliable options. But when the snaps dissipated, Agholor seems to shine in his route running and find open looks..but it was too late.
A new year and a new chapter for the former USC receiver in a playbook that suits his style seemed to hold promise..yet ghosts of a season past are still haunting Agholor’s game. But is he in a better position to defeat them with Greg Lewis and Doug Pederson by his side?
One of Agholor’s overpowering strengths is his route running ability..and in an Offense this complex, it has become his greatest asset. On the play below, Agholor makes a quick cut inside, getting his back turned extremely quickly and motioning into a position to haul in a body catch for the checkdown. Wentz instead decided to take a shot over the top, but the option was there. This Offense thrives on a variety of viable options being open at the time of the pass..and Agholor has shown he has the ability to become one of those options consistently.
While Agholor flourishes in getting down the field and creating pockets of space, he has developed a tendency to be dangerous on shorter routes..which is absolutely pivotal if he is to succeed in this Offense. Wentz throws a short pass to the outside to Agholor who then cuts to his left, almost burning Tracy Porter and picking up some nice yards after the catch.
The Eagles have even tried using Agholor in the screen game, with varying success. But this play against the Steelers not only shows the complexity of Doug’s Offense, but gives Agholor another avenue to contribute if needed. It’s a beautifully run play with so much going on that it would cause an elite Defense to second guess themselves. Agholor motions to the other side of the field, running behind Wentz and getting in position to make the screen reception. The pass never found it’s way to Agholor, but the potential was there.
The elusiveness of Agholor has come on leaps and bounds since his rookie year and he does have a certain confidence about him now. For instance on this short dink over the top, Agholor has barely a second to lift his head up after making the catch but instinctively makes a great cut to pick up some extra yards. In fact, if it wasn’t for a retreating Defensive lineman, a huge alley would have opened.
Shifty is a perfect word to describe Agholor..but if you’re still not fully convinced….
It’s this same fluidity in movement that makes him so dangerous if given room. In a zone Defense look here, the 23-year old transitions inside for a nice post route that leaves plenty of room to make a pass. Wentz rolled out to his left however which completely took Agholor’s name out of the hat.
Agholor does well to sneak underneath into a pocket of space here, despite the Steelers best attempts to eliminate the intermediate shots over the middle. The reaction speeds of Agholor and fluidity in his turn are what makes this so impressive. The West-Coast Offense is designed for plays to either become a checkdown..or a touchdown..and it’s the last part where Agholor has struggled, but it’s not all on him.
For instance, this short pass to DGB gets the job done, but at the very top of the screen in the distance, Agholor gains a step on his man and with a single formation, the opportunity to take a deep shot was there..as it was with Jordan Matthews who ran a great post route.
This was another opportunity for Agholor to make a big play that simply never arose. Wentz put his trust in the hands of Jordan Matthews and understandably so..but on the outside, getting into one-on-one coverage and making a gorgeous cut on the post route..was Nelson Agholor. The result of which saw the Eagles receiver head toward the endzone a step ahead of his man, but Wentz stayed locked onto Matthews.
A similar situation occurred in the season opener against the Browns. Agholor beats his man inside with ease and is in perfect position to make a big play if he can beat the Safety. Wentz decided to throw a shot over the middle in double coverage, making the completion but ignoring a bursting Agholor over the middle.
So why isn’t Agholor being targeted on these routes if it’s such an “obvious” decision? he answer is simple, he isn’t a physical receiver and he struggles to haul in tough catches. Jordan Matthews has incredible length and size for a slot receiver and Dorial Green-Beckham’s frame needs no introduction. Agholor isn’t a tough wideout and as a result, often gets knocked around.
If you asked me to describe Nelson Agholor in one GIF, it’d be this one. Agholor completely burns his corner, forces him to stumble with some sensational footwork and gets open inside the 15. He then goes up to make the catch…and the ball gets knocked loose. It all goes so, so well until the final hurdle, a recurring theme.
The same happens on the play below. A perfect fade route gives Wentz a perfect pocket to drop the ball into. Agholor jumps to make the reception, only to be denied once again and come down with his arms sprawled either side of him.
And then, he’ll do something like this. In the opening game of the season, Wentz drops one in the bucket perfectly after some wizardry on the line of scrimmage gave Wentz a free lane outside, one he charged down all the way to the endzone to make the touchdown reception..his second as an Eagle.
The Eagles obviously want to find ways to utilize Nelson Agholor..and he’s shown flashes of the receiver that many expected him to become, just as he did last season. But in an Offense where it’s a deep pass attempt or a short one..the Eagles need reliability down the field. Although he may be the crispest route runner, possess the most fluid movement and instincts..he struggles making the tough catches on a consistent basis..and it’s that factor alone that could see him slide down the depth chart in favor of Dorial Green-Beckham.
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports