Why Eagles WR Nelson Agholor may be destined for a career-year in 2019

The 2019 NFL offseason has been one of the busiest in Philadelphia in recent memory. While Howie Roseman’s Eagles are always busy in the spring, this year, in particular, it seems as if talent has been added to the roster in droves. As such, it can be difficult to give deserved attention to the talent already on the roster. Even after finding his mojo, Nelson Agholor has been one of those names that are consistently undersold. Through swirling trade rumors and new additions to the receiving corps, Nelly’s focus remains locked on the season ahead.

“I didn’t really worry about it. At the end of the day, I love this place. We have unfinished business . . . I want to be an Eagle and I’m here . . . I’m ready to play football.”

Nelson Agholor to Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports

Whether the rumors were true or not, the Eagles will be happy they kept Agholor in midnight green. Despite his lofty $9.34M contract, what Nelson brings to the Eagles offense is priceless. Plus, with it being a contract year for him, he’s got everything to prove in 2019.

After shedding his bust label in 2017 and exploding for eight touchdowns and 768 yards, Agholor saw a slight drop in stats last season. 2018 was a confusing year for the Eagles’ offense and it seemed as if nobody outside of Zach Ertz fully realized their potential. Yet, even with that minor dip, Nelson still managed 736 yards and 4 touchdowns. That was without a true deep threat on the team — with Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins watching from the sidelines — and the mid-season addition of Golden Tate. The passing game was also severely impaired by the team’s anemic rushing attack.

The Eagles haven’t made any big changes to their offensive coaching staff in 2018 (although they did make a switch at the receivers coaching position). They added DeSean Jackson, who will absorb targets in a similar vein to Tate. The team also spent a draft pick on WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and will look to further incorporate last year’s top selection Dallas Goedert into the offense. So, what’s to say the former first-round pick will fare any better in 2019?

The Numbers

The chart below shows exactly how much the 2018 remodeling affected Agholor. Despite seeing more of the field, he was lined up outside of his natural slot position much more often and watched his target share fall. This was especially true in the red zone, where the entire Eagles offense stagnated for most of the season. The quality of his targets was also victim to a slight decline. It could be argued that the numbers below account for the entirety of Agholor’s drop in production.

Snap Share (Slot)Tgt ShareTgts/SnapRZ TgtCtchble Tgt
201775.0% (58.2%)17.1%12.2%23.1%80.0%
201893.5% (47.2%)16.4%10.4%14.3%77.3%

The lack of targets inside the 20 is particularly unsettling. The long, athletic receiver is a mismatch in many situations, especially with the ball in his hands. Well-designed redzone touches resulted in some easy touchdowns for Nelson in 2017:

It wasn’t until the last game of the season, against a beleaguered Washington Redskins, that the coaching staff came back to these sort of plays. Lo and behold, they went without a hitch.

In spite of outward appearances, in many ways, Nelson was even more efficient last season. He limited his drops and made the most of targets closer to the line of scrimmage. There is no question that his skill set became less of a focal point for the offense last season, especially during the Golden Tate experiment (when Agholor’s targets dropped from 7.6 to 4.5 per game).

Air Yds/TgtAvg Tgt Dist.YAC/TgtCtch RateDrop Rate
20174.910.23.265.3%7.4%
20184.110.33.566.0%3.1%

Still, to the eye test, Agholor wasn’t as explosive last season. There weren’t as many long touchdowns or juke moves on display. He wasn’t found behind the defense making defenders look silly quite so often.

Philadelphia’s offense figures to be relatively unchanged heading into the new season. Plus, the reality is, the Eagles will have just as many mouths to feed in 2019. Without establishing himself early, Nelson could easily fall by the wayside in a very potent offense. Still, there are indications that Agholor could be on an upward trend heading into September. Nevertheless, if the coaches are to squeeze the last ounces out of Agholor’s contract year, some changes to how he’s being utilized will have to happen.

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