What’s Old is New Again; Eagles Need Agholor to Play Outside
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Nelson Agholor departed life outside the numbers as a shaken player lack confidence and now he returns as the Eagles' most dynamic playmaker just over a year later.
Injuries have forced Agholor to abandon his comfort zone more and more early this season and with Jordan Matthews back in the fold as a big target on the inside, it's now paramount that Agholor uses his speed to stretch opposing defenses.
That was set to be the role of Mike Wallace but the veteran speedster's season is now threatened after just 73 offensive snaps, none with Carson Wentz, due to a fractured fibula against Tampa Bay.
The next man up in such a scenario, Mack Hollins, is also on injured reserve resulting in the Eagles going outside the organization for help and bringing back the familiar face of Matthews, who has 225 receptions during his first three professional seasons with Philadelphia.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds the trade of Matthews to Buffalo last summer opened up the slot for Agholor. The results were impressive. After two disappointing seasons looking like a fish out of water outside, totaling 59 receptions and three touchdowns, Agholor found himself working option route on the inside with his short-area quickness, snaring 62 receptions with eight TDs.
Doug Pederson tried to downplay the moving parts earlier this week but it's clear what has to happen as the Eagles move forward.
"I don't get into slot, inside, outside and the only reason I say that is because we move our guys around a bunch," Pederson said. "You've seen Nelson inside, you've seen Nelson outside. That could be by formation, matchups and different things.
"But yeah in [Matthews'] career he's been primarily an inside receiver and we understand that and we'll see where he's at and where he fits into the game plan this week."
Despite what Pederson said of those 62 Agholor catches last season, 54 of them came from the slot.
Something has to give and because Agholor is better equipped from a skill set standpoint to work outside, he's the one that's got to make the accommodations for the Eagles' offense to have a better opportunity at success.
"I'm a wide receiver. To be able to play inside and outside is something I always wanted to be able to do, and something I did throughout college, and something I want to continue to do here," Agholor said. "Defenses are going to do what they have to do. At the end of the day, regardless of where you line up, you have to find a way to create separation."
Pressed if he could handle Wallace's projected role as the deep threat, Agholor quipped: “Are you asking me, can I run? I think it’s on tape that I can run. I, 100 percent believe I can run and take the top off.”
There is more to it than speed, however, and if you look at top-tier deep threats like Hall of Famer Randy Moss and the guy who torched the Eagles last week in Tampa, DeSean Jackson, tracking the football in the air is even more important than the ability to run by NFL defensive backs.
To date that has not been, Agholor's strength but more confidence from the Southern Cal product has Pederson believing this time things will be different.
"Nelson has been a really big part of the offense so far in both spots both inside and outside," the coach said. "He's obviously done a great job blocking in the run game and then in the passing game he's been outside as well. So, moving him around has been beneficial to us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen