Josh Huff’s Hardship Opens Door for Agholor
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Football is the last thing on Josh Huff's mind these days.
The second-year receiver is trying to hold off rookie sensation Nelson Agholor for a spot in the Eagles' starting lineup but that pales in comparison to what the University of Oregon product is going through in his personal life.
Huff missed two practices earlier this week to mourn the loss of his god brother, Anthony Joyce.
The 23-year-old was back for the team's walk-through on Thursday in advance of Saturday's game in Green Bay but admitted his mind "just wasn't there yet."
"I'm just taking it day by day," he told reporters after the light training session. "(Just) try to wake up and be better than I was the day before and if that doesn't work then I'll just continue to pray."
Things can change drastically in 48 hours but Huff did not seem like he was prepared to play against the Packers.
"Every day I can get better I'm going to try and get better, but Saturday, if I can't make it I can't make it," said Huff. "I'm pretty sure the guys and the coaches will understand."
From a pure football perspective Huff's person travails come at a difficult time because Agholor has been making a significant push for playing time.
Perhaps the Eagles' most explosive receiver, the former Southern Cal star is rough around the edges like most rookies but his ability to stick his foot in the ground and put significant fear in opposing defenses makes it almost imperative to get him on the field.
"I think he's really made great strides in this training camp," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said when talking about his new weapon. "He's proven he can make a play, and that's really critical for a receiver."
It didn't take long for Agholor to show that skill. His first NFL catch was of the leaping circus variety as he corralled a woefully inaccurate pass from Mark Sanchez before immediately turning up field for a 34-yard touchdown against Indianapolis.
"We teach them to run these very specific routes and then we teach them that this is the way it should look, ideally," Shurmur claimed. "But at the end of the day, you get down field somehow and when the ball comes your way, you've got to catch it. He’s displayed an ability to do that, and that's, I think, what will help him kind of start him on his way."
It will start him but to finish Agholor has to show more consistency catching the football and improve his timing with starting quarterback Sam Bradford.
"In the NFL timing routes are big because the window to catch the football is small," veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think (Agholor) struggled with that early but you can see him getting better and better at it day by day."
Compared to most freshman, Agholor is ahead of the curve. Through two preseason games Agholor has seen 53 reps compared to 31 for Huff and the rookie has vastly outperformed the sophomore. Agholor leads Philadelphia with seven receptions for 106 yards in the preseason while Huff has caught just one pass for 12 yards.
"It's great that (Shurmur) has confidence in my ability," Agholor told 973espn.com. "When you know the coaches are behind you, it just helps you a little. It's still about hard work and that's the kind of player I am. If I continue to improve things will work out."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JFMcMullen