Tate may be stealing the spotlight, but Agholor’s new role is transforming Eagles offense

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The Eagles offense is finally clicking on all cylinders again. For context, their third-down conversion percentage sits at a dismal 40% on the year, but rose to a far more promising 53.8% (including a taking a knee in the fourth quarter) in Monday Night’s win. One of the biggest areas of offensive improvement that have sparked this recent growth has been the team’s ability to pound the rock and take the weight off the shoulders of Carson Wentz. Although it’s easy to look at Josh Adams and the offensive line as key contributors to this rise in production, there’s one name who continues to be an integral cog to the running machine.

It’s been a strange year for Nelson Agholor. Just one season removed from a resurgent 768 yard season where he tallied 8 touchdowns, the USC product has 523 yards and a single score to his name. While his role changed drastically in the early stages of the year due to a lack of depth on the roster, Agholor slowly became a ‘gadget’ player who could be moved outside when needed.

After the Golden Tate trade was finalized, many worried what this meant for the super-smooth slot receiver. As we all know, the Eagles may not be able to afford to retain his services next year and with both Matthews and Tate on the roster, it looked as though it would be difficult for Agholor to prove himself worthy of the price-tag. But in yet more career adversity, Agholor has started to show growth in an area of his game that previously lacked, run blocking.

Until recently, the Eagles had spent the entire year without Richard Rodgers, their premier blocking tight end, which meant getting extra bulk to open lanes in the trenches was difficult at times. Luckily, they’ve found solace in the services of Nelson Agholor. In fact, his run-blocking has been so underrated that it’s almost criminal.

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The Birds placed a heavy focus on using motion to try and gain leverage over the Redskins defense and for Agholor, this meant he was able to draw corners and safeties inside, only to block and create a crease for Josh Adams. This happened on several occasions throughout the night, including the final play in the video above, where Agholor is able to completely remove Swearinger from a Safety Blitz by keeping his feet square and his upper-body driving the momentum of 27-year old. These plays were littered throughout the game and without his sudden emergence as a blocker, it’s fair to say the rushing growth may not have been as impressive. Mike Groh pointed out the trait in his weekly press conference.

“[WR] Nelson [Agholor] did a really good job at the point of attack in a lot of those runs the other night, so collectively as a group I think we understand the run game plan well and are blocking it efficiently.”

Agholor is still contributing as a receiver, make no mistake about it. He caught 4 of 8 targets for 56 yards on Monday night including a great route across the middle of the field and what could’ve been an easy touchdown if Wentz hadn’t missed a simple short throw. But one area of his game that was always weaker due to his leaner frame was blocking.

The Eagles spent the entire 2016 season without much in the way of lead-blockers. Jordan Matthews was the strongest of the bunch but Agholor, then used as an outside threat, was never able to deliver in that same vein…and the less that can be said about DGB and company, the better. One year ago, things changed slightly, but there again was no receiver the Eagles could rely on to sustain a block and open the run.

Those worries may be finally extinguished.

If Agholor can prove his worth as a willing run-blocker that’s able to drive through contact, this isn’t only going to help open he run and play-action, but also his play-strength when driving through the stem of his routes. His future may be uncertain, but as a  depleted Eagles receiving corps recovers, a hidden strength may give Agholor some previously unforeseen leverage.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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