Eagles Stand By Nelson Agholor
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Regression is the eye of the beholder when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles and Nelson Agholor.
With Agholor taking hits from all sides after his latest poor performance against New England, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Agholor's old position coach during his most productive season in 2017, channeled his inner Tammy Wynette earlier this week and had the embattled receiver's back.
“I would say that that's probably not fair,” Groh responded when asked if Agholor had regressed as a player from his peak when he briefly turned the narrative from first-round bust to Super Bowl hero among the often-difficult Philadelphia fan base. “I would say that over the last two years, he's had to wear a lot of different hats in our offense due to the attrition at the position, and one of his strengths is his mental flexibility and his ability to learn."
In the 2017 campaign, Agholor snared 62 receptions for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. He also was the Eagles' top receiver in Super Bowl LII with nine receptions. Last season Agholor was up to 64 receptions but the yardage (736 yards) and TDs (four) were down. Through the first 10 games of 2019, Agholor is on pace to decline again and has had some high-profile drops while being graded No. 124 of 124 eligible NFL receivers by ProFootballFocus.com.
The criticism has grown so harsh in the wake of another big drop in the end zone that Agholor shut down his Instagram account by Tuesday night.
Groh blamed part of Agholor's perceived troubles on his ability to move around and play inside and outside, something that has been forced due to injuries to DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia's top two receivers.
“In 2017, he was really able to really just kind of stay in one spot each and every week," Groh explained. "We were healthy the entire year and we had the same three, four guys rotating and performing the same job. His job description has changed over the last couple years due to necessity, and I understand the question, but to me he's still the same player.”
So why give him the different hats?
"He knows the entire system as well as anybody," Groh said. "So he's able to handle a lot from that standpoint.”
The eye test says something different with Agholor but the Eagles as an organization seem hell-bent on protecting him after picking up the costly 9.4 million team option on the final year of his rookie deal.
Sunday's major mishaps were two more opportunities in the end zone in what turned out to be a one-touchdown game, instances where Agholor seemed to track the football poorly, turning admittedly difficult catches into what would have been circus ones.
On a potential TD in the second quarter, Agholor appeared to lose track of where he was on the field and caught the football out of the end zone. To explain Groh went on a tangent about coverage and progression failing to address the elephant in the room.
“That play was really designed for a different coverage structure, and he had a completely — really a completely different assignment had they played the intended or expected coverage, and so he was really just reacting to the situation as the play got extended,” Groh said. “And then the ball took him to the corner of the end zone on that one.”
The other was the more high-profile play on a fourth-down in the fourth quarter in which Wentz threw a dime to the back of the end zone on a zero-blitz. Agholor picked it up late and awkwardly tried to catch the football over his back shoulder, tweaking his knee in the process.
“Carson was trying to give him an opportunity to make a play,” Groh said. “That’s a tough adjustment based on the direction and the target line that we have him on, and then where the ball kind of fell back over his inside shoulder, and he's the kind of guy who would say he'd love to make that play. But that wasn't a routine play. That would have been a really, really good play, and two guys making a really good play in the circumstances that called for, but we didn't get it done.”
If you're expecting any changes, however, don't hold your breath.
“We have a lot of confidence in Nelson Agholor,” Groh said. “He’s been one of the reasons why we’ve had success here, and I know he’ll continue to be one.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen