It’s crazy how much difference a year can make. Be it in your personal life, your work, or maybe even romance, stories can be re-written and new chapters seamlessly unfold. It feels like only yesterday that USC product Nelson Agholor was subject to nagging criticism and abandonment from fans and media alike. But in just a few days time, he’ll be competing in his first ever Super Bowl.
The season that Nelson Aghlor has enjoyed in 2017 has been nothing short of remarkable. After struggling on the outside from a production standpoint, with drops and mental setbacks haunting his every snap, Nelson Agholor was shifted into the slot. This was a conscious decision from the coaching staff. An injured Jordan Matthews lost valuable time during Training Camp, allowing Agholor to blossom under new Wide Receiver’s coach, Mike Groh. That tale ended with Matthews being traded to the Bills on the eve of the 2017 season in exchange for Ronald Darby. It was a blockbuster move that symbolized the trust and confidence the Eagles had in a player who lacked that very quality one year ago…and they’ve never looked back.
In his third NFL season, Agholor didn’t just shine, but in many cases he stole the spotlight. After exploding for a huge 58-yard touchdown in the season opener in Washington, the team’s new slot receiver would rekindle the form he displayed during his days at the position for USC, recording 768 yards and 8 touchdowns in the regular season. Not only that, but he accounted for a stunning 36 first downs…
Look for Nelson Agholor on 3rd down! pic.twitter.com/D3a1I87aD1
— PFF (@PFF) January 31, 2018
…and 9 receptions of 20+ yards. Philadelphia’s biggest underdog changed his stars in 2017. But that didn’t come as a surprise to Doug Pederson.
The man who gave Agholor instruction to take some time away from football when his confidence was at its lowest, Pederson spoke glowingly of his prized slot receiver after the win over Atlanta. Agholor has played all over the field for the Eagles this season and most frequently has been featured in the backfield on sweeps, misdirects and that dominant 20-yard run against Atlanta.
“He’s the type of guy you can move around.” The Eagles Head Coach said. “Like his speed, utilizing that, and his quickness. As you saw last week, even in the run game, some misdirection things there. But, again, it has to apply each week. You just can’t come up with something if it doesn’t apply to the team you’re playing.”
In the space of a year, Agholor has gone from a receiver who at one point negated a Zach Ertz touchdown due to not being lined up properly and suffering with mental mistakes, to a receiver who trusts in his phenomenal route-running ability and the confidence the team place in him.
“I think what makes Nelson so versatile is No. 1, he’s a very smart player.” Frank Reich explained a few weeks back. “He processes things quickly. He can learn all the positions. He’s always the guy in meetings whenever a question is asked, he’s the guy who knows the answer all the time. And just a very smart player. And then secondly, physically, he just has the attributes. He has vertical speed. He has short-area quickness and he has explosiveness. That makes it easy to want to put him in those positions.”
Agholor thrice led the Eagles in receiving yards this season. A 93-yard outing against the Cardinals, a 141-yard breakout in the loss to Seattle and a 59-yard performance against the Giants left fans purring. He also registered a touchdown in all three of these outings.
“His confidence. Definitely his confidence.” Carson Wentz said when asked after a win over Washington what the biggest difference between both season’s has been for the 24-year old. “Just kind of everyone around him, instilling that confidence in him. I think last year, those were some things, we always knew he had the physical abilities, just sometimes his confidence would waiver. Just bringing in some other guys, kind of taking some pressure off and just letting him go out and play. We are all just really happy for him because he is one of the hardest working guys we have ever been around.”
— FanSided (@FanSided) January 30, 2018
Two year’s ago, Nelson Agholor was targeted twice and was unable to register a single catch against the New England Patriots. He now faces them in Super Bowl 52 after one of the most incredible bounce-back seasons in franchise history. If you want an underdog to root for this weekend, look no further than the slot-receiver who has been making life extremely difficult for defenses all season long.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports