The Comeback Kid of 2017
Nelson Agholor was the last first-round pick that former head coach Chip Kelly had the opportunity to screw up. After showing his talents at USC, the Eagles drafted Agholor with the 20th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. After a shaky two first years in the NFL, Agholor was the Eagles biggest comeback kid of 2017. He is an extremely underrated reason why the Eagles won Super Bowl LII.
Agholor’s days at USC
The wide receiver started his career at USC in 2012 as a true freshman playing as a backup receiver. That year, he played in 13 games tallying 18 receptions for 341 yards and two touchdowns. His performance as a freshman earned Agholor a starting spot during his sophomore season. In 2013, he recorded 56 receptions for 918 yards and six touchdowns. It was during this season the speedy receiver also began returning punts.
He returned 18 punts for 343 yards and two touchdowns. During his last season with USC in 2014, Agholor had his best year, catching 104 passes, for 1313 yards, and 12 TDs. He also ran back two more punts for touchdowns that year. He then declared for the draft where the Eagles grabbed him with their first-round pick.
Year one with the Eagles
Agholor’s first year with the Birds was mainly plagued by small nagging injuries. Also on top of that, it was Kelly’s last year where he alienated just about everyone within the organization. And Sam Bradford was the quarterback so Agholor’s 23 receptions, for 283 yards and one touchdown was really overlooked. Agholor showed flashes of his speed as well as talents previously showcased at USC but it was a disaster of a season from start to finish in 2015. It wasn’t until his struggles in 2016 that the real woes set in.
A sophomore slump
2016 was a year of change for the Eagles. With new coach Doug Pederson in the building as the offensive mind, Kelly’s system was out the door. There was a new quarterback leading the team as well. The Eagles got off to a hot start with rookie QB Carson Wentz. The birds jumped out to 3-0 before an early Week four bye. In those three early games, Agholor caught 11 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown.
Through the next 13 games, Agholor demonstrated some of his struggles. He caught only 28 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown. In there, he also had about six or seven crucial drops. There isn’t a specific number, as drops are a very arbitrary statistic. Although Agholor was not the only player who dropped crucial and catchable passes in 2016 (let’s not forget that Dorial Green-Beckham mess), it was not acceptable for a former first-round pick. It was extra unacceptable when the most recent first-round pick in Wentz appeared to be playing at such a high level.
After the rough stretch where he struggled immensely, Pederson made the decision to bench Agholor for a game. The Eagles then returned home for a few games. I was in attendance for the first game back against the Washington Redskins. During the announcement of the offensive starters, I have never heard such loud “boos” in the stadium. I have been to Eagles games against the Dallas Cowboys and NEVER in my life have I ever heard boos like this. For a 23-year-old kid in his second year, this was heartbreaking to hear. However, Agholor took this as motivation to be the comeback kid of 2017.
The Super Bowl season
Not only was Agholor dropping catchable balls, he was committing stupid penalties as well. The sophomore player was in his own head and it became more of a mental issue. Luckily, the Eagles were not ready to give up on their 2015 first-round pick. He was the comeback kid of 2017 thanks to the support of his coaching staff and teammates.
Agholor caught the first touchdown for the Eagles of 2017 on a long third down pass from Wentz. That started Agholor off for the season and he never looked back. Agholor played in all 16 regular season games in 2017 recording 62 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had a fumble recovery for a touchdown. In the postseason, Agholor added 15 more receptions for 167 yards.
The comeback kid took a giant leap forward in 2017. It was a bounce-back year he desperately needed and Eagles fans were more than happy to see. He made big plays like his opening touchdown, his touchdown during the Cardinals game where he put the moves on the defender and fell into the end-zone DeSean Jackson style. The best part about Agholor’s comeback, however, is his ability to now be a reliable target in crunch-time situations.
His underrated catches that led to a Super Bowl title
Let’s not forget that when Wentz went down with a torn ACL, the Eagles got behind the Rams late in that game. The Eagles fought back and went up by a field goal. But, there was still almost 4:30 left on the clock. The defense held strong and forced the Rams to punt. There were 2:00 left by the time the Eagles got the ball back. All they needed was to chew the clock and force the Rams to use their timeouts.
They called back to back running plays to Jay Ajayi that were well contained by the Rams defense. On a crucial third and eight, Nick Foles threw a short pass to Agholor for nine yards to get that overly important first down. Without that diving catch by Agholor, the Eagles would have been forced to punt to the Rams with 1:52 left.
In the Super Bowl, Agholor had nine receptions. Three of those came at a crucial point in time. The Patriots had managed to claw their way back from an early deficit and went up 33-32 on the Eagles in the fourth quarter. The Eagles needed to put together a scoring drive. The Eagles took seven plays to move just 22 yards to their own 47 and had already needed a successful fourth down attempt to continue the drive.
After a short one-yard gain on a first and 10 from their own 45, Pederson called Agholor’s number three consecutive times. He made all three catches for 10, 18, and 10 yards respectively. These plays brought the Eagles to the Patriot’s 14-yard line, putting them in position for the winning touchdown pass to Zach Ertz.
The comeback kid going into year four
The Eagles have depth at wide receiver for the first time in years. With Alshon Jeffery at the number one spot, Mike Wallace at two, Agholor at three, Mack Hollins at four, and whoever else the Eagles decide to bring on the roster, these guys will certainly pose a problem for defenses. First of all our receivers are FAST. With the possibility of Jeffery missing a game or two at the beginning, that could also cause the offense to rely a little bit more on the hands of Agholor.
So far in camp, Agholor looks good…really good. He is not dropping anything, and he is constantly running his routes at full speed. He is clearly working extremely hard to improve upon his best NFL season yet. Not only is he working to improve his own game, but he is also working to help some of the younger receivers improve as well. During last night’s open practice when younger receivers dropped an “easy” ball, Agholor was the first person to run over and offer some advice.
Nate Sudfeld just hit Nelson Agholor deep down the right sideline, over Malcolm Jenkins. Agholor's speed has really stood out this summer.
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) August 5, 2018
He has it all
The comeback kid has all we could want in a player. He’s fast, talented, committed to getting better, as well as helping his teammates. Although he was boo-ed harder than anyone on the team at one point, he bounced back and showed what he is truly capable of. He is poised for another great year to really turn some heads and get some positive recognition.
Stats: Sports Reference, Pro Football Reference, NFL.com
Featured Image: RWM via Flickr
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