The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 3: When the wheels came off the Wagon

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By now it’s been well documented that Eagles wideout, Nelson Agholor, had a rollercoaster second season in the NFL. From a hot start, to hitting a wall in the middle of the season that would change his trajectory for the rest of the year, it was a strange year for the USC product. If you haven’t read the previous two parts to this series, you can check them out below. Part 3 focuses on arguably the most critical three-game stretch of Agholor’s year..because these are the three games that really cemented his short-term future.

The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 1: Was the loss to Detroit a catalyst for confidence concerns?

The curious case of Nelson Agholor part 2: Falling victim to a vicious cycle

Week 9 @ New York Giants:
7 targets
4 receptions
41 yards
92% snaps

After a tough game against the Cowboys that saw Agholor fall victim to a vicious cycle, playing 92% of snaps against the Giants would surely bode well for the receiver who by this point was under a lot of outside pressure. On just the second pass attempt of the game, Carson Wentz sought out number 17, but ended up throwing an interception. It’s difficult to pin this on Agholor, who ran a clean drag route only to see another underthrown pall swiped from his path, but this play is important. After a game where the flaws in his game began to rise through the cracks, seeing his first target intercepted does anything but help rebuild teetering confidence.

What happened next would arguably sum up the rest of the game. Whether Wentz simply assumed DGB was the more realistic redzone completion artist, or whether the taller wideout was his primary read, Wentz failed to acknowledge Agholor on the other side of the field. When you compare the two routes, Agholor does well to break through press and actually create a perfect opportunity for Wentz. Green-Beckham takes an extra step away from the corner, meaning he’s almost forced into a tightrope situation where even a nicely placed ball works against him. This was the game where DGB was simply riled up by Janoris Jenkins..but it was Agholor who suffered the same fate as he did during week four of 2016, consistently creating opportunities that go unnoticed.

The exact same scenario can be seen here. DGB at the top of the screen, gets physically dominated by Jenkins, who closes off the top of the route, while Agholor at least has a 50-50 chance, running much closer to the corner. At the time of throwing the ball, Agholor was in a better place to make the reception, but again.. Wentz made a quick read with pressure coming.

With Eagles receivers struggling to get open on slants and crossing routes, it was this game where Agholor really showed how crisp his route running can be. Given that this simple drag route sees him lined up inches away from Rogers-Cromatie, Agholor doesn’t even initiate contact. He stutters instantly, and breaks inside for great separation. Wentz made the right call, but the checkdown option was just as enticing.

The one play that really stands out in this game, was his biggest reception of the day..one that set up a Kenjon Barner touchdown. Agholor runs a short dig, before flashing his explosiveness by flying past an incoming tackle and driving for the endzone. This is the kind of play that reminded fans just how dangerous he can be..but as always seems to be the case, they’d be reminded of his flaws shortly after.

Agholor started this route perfectly. Great footwork saw him duke around the linebacker to give a scrambling Wentz an opportunity, but a ball that was driven ahead of him towards the turf was barely in reach for Agholor, resulting in a drop..and that’s all fans see, a drop..it’s all that Agholor would take from that play as well. With an interception to start the game and a drop toward the end, the narrative began to unfold.

Then came the fumble recovery. Agholor does well on an out route to work himself into space and make the reception, but after being hit by Rogers-Cromartie, the ball is jarred loose. A desperate Agholor jumps on it for the recovery, but at this point you have to feel like the Train was beginning to derail.

At first glance, this play shows a wide receiver making a great stutter move to then burst toward the endzone and beat coverage..but given how Wentz threw the ball off his back foot, it may be there was some miscommunication..especially when you look at Agholor’s body language afterward. The route itself was pristine, but if it was supposed to be a comeback or something of that nature..it’s easy to see the wheels beginning to wobble. Even if that wasn’t the case, it’s just another incompletion that would bear down on the shoulders of number 17 heading into a big game against Atlanta.

 

Week 10: Vs Atlanta Falcons
5 targets
2 receptions
7 yards
91% snaps played

Week 10 was a much quieter affair for Nelson Agholor, but it didn’t stop him from flashing his potential. Working out of the slot, something many were hoping to see more of in 2016, Agholor comes across the middle to make a toe-drag-swag reception at the sideline for a short gain. The spatial awareness here is impressive, and something that hasn’t always graced his game..so it was definitely nice to see.

Agholor seemed to line up in the slot more frequently than ever before in this game. In the play below, he does well to fight press coverage, but is unable to break cleanly, meaning that the route became a little shallower than intended. It could be argued that the ball was once again overthrown, but if Agholor had been able to get a step on the back-pedalling slot corner or get inside sooner, I think this could have been a touchdown. It was great coverage that actually kept Agholor out of the endzone..which is where the route intended him to be.

Then came the drop. For the second time in as many games, Nelson Agholor dropped a pass, but this one was a lot more on him than the one against the Giants. Again working out of the slot, Agholor positioned himself inside but failed to adjust himself for a reception, leaving him reaching across his body on a slight miscommunication, dropping the ball and adding another nail in the coffin.

 

Week 11: @ Seattle Seahawks
0 receptions
3 targets
0 Yards
Snaps played: 88%

This would be the last game Agholor would play before taking a week out to “get out of his own head”. So what was the breaking point? Against the Seahawks, Aggy failed to register a single catch, having only been targeted 3 times. To me, this game felt like a culmination of everything we’ve learned so far in this series. It started promisingly enough, with a nice post out of the slot seeing him break into acres of space. Wentz was unable to get the ball to Agholor, nor see just how much space had opened up..but for the USC standout, it was a strong start.

The below play is nearly a perfect mirror of the one above, only this time Agholor was targeted by a scrambling Carson Wentz. The ball wasn’t catchable however, meaning Agholor’s work slicing through the Seattle Defense had been undone.

A few plays later however, Agholor resurged well with a nice route against none other than Richard Sherman. With the star cornerback draped over him, Agholor uses some nice hesitation moves to keep Sherman heading vertically, before bouncing inside and creates a huge passing lane for Wentz..but then the inevitable happened. For the third time in three games, Agholor would drop a pass. By this point it was clear that the confidence had simply been shattered.

To end the game, Aggy caught a nice two-point conversion inside the endzone, catching over his back shoulder and using great body adjustment to secure the ball..but the damage seemed to be done.

 

The year had been a rocky one so far for Nelson Agholor, and these three games saw every demon he’d previously faced rise up and haunt him once again. Three drops in three games, external pressure and what seemed like a growing amount of stress in his play on the field, saw his involvement fade into a more intermediate wideout, and his route-running overlooked. The targets dropped, and with it his confidence. This was the stretch that truly saw Agholor’s season hit a new-low..but would he come back from it? Find out in part 4 of our breakdown.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

 

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