Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor Shows Hint of Breakthrough

Andrew Kulp@@KulpSaysContributor IDecember 15, 2015

Philadelphia Eagles' Nelson Agholor reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Perhaps expectations for Nelson Agholor's rookie season with the Philadelphia Eagles were a little unfair.

The first-round draft pick was supposed to replace Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. On SportsCenter's draft special, ESPN's Todd McShay (h/t Eagles Insider, PhiladelphiaEagles.com) even picked him to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Not only has Agholor failed to meet those lofty expectations, his first season as a professional has been a disappointment in general. Yet even in what some might consider a lost year, the USC product has shown glimpses of making a breakthrough and becoming the weapon many imagined.

The statistics are decidedly not good. Through 10 games, nine of those starts, Agholor has managed to record just 19 receptions for 225 yards. Drops have also been an issue, with three according to Pro Football Focus, and arguably more speaking anecdotally.

Agholor College Stats
YRRECYDSAVGTD
20121834118.92
20135691816.46
20141041,31312.612
Sports-Reference.com

However, there have been moments when Agholor has not only come through for the Eagles but shined.

Agholor caught a 45-yard bomb against Washington in Week 4 to help jump-start a sputtering offense, his 64 yards on the afternoon still representing his most productive game of the season.

In Sunday's victory over the Buffalo Bills, he hauled in his first career touchdown, taking the top off the defense again to the tune of 53 yards.

Unfortunately, Agholor has often followed those big plays with lapses in concentration.

Immediately after the catch against Washington, Agholor mishandled the exchange on a wide receiver reverse, fumbling the ball away and losing possession. Later on against Buffalo, the Eagles looked to Agholor on a potentially crucial third-down slant in the red zone. The 22-year-old failed to hang on, and the incompletion resulted in a field-goal try.

Simply put, the consistency isn't there yet for Agholor. Thatmaybe more than his numbersis the most disappointing aspect of his rookie season.

At least the numbers can be explained to a certain degree.

Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

First of all, first-year players and wideouts in particular don't always set the world on fire upon arriving in the NFL. Agholor was the fourth receiver taken in the draft, not the first or second, which is why believing he would replace Maclin's production or win Rookie of the Year was probably setting the bar much too high.

Agholor also suffered an ankle injury in Week 5, which was probably a bigger setback than people realize. The three games he missed as a result couldn't have been beneficial to his development, and even when he returned, he likely wasn't 100 percent.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly went to bat for Agholor after Sunday's game, in which the rookie finished with three catches, 62 yards and the score.

"He's in a good spot," said Kelly. "Obviously, you'd like everybody to make every catch and do everything, but I thought he made a really big play for us. He missed a good portion in there with that high ankle sprain. That's difficult for a skill player to come back from.

"I think he's getting his feet underneath him, but thank goodness he was there. That was a heck of a catch on the post route for a touchdown."

That touchdown proved instrumental in the Eagles' three-point victory over the Bills. It's precisely the type of play downfield that's been missing from the offense for much of the seasonthe vertical threat many were hoping Agholor could provide.

The vertical threat and more that Agholor may still provide.

There are three games remaining for the young man to break out and give the Eagles confidence that he can fill a larger role in his second year.

Miscues aside, Agholor's performance is hinting that he may finally be ready to unleash that potential.

 

All quotes obtained by author.