'In a better place,' Nelson Agholor has chance to show progress in Green Bay

'In a better place,' Nelson Agholor has chance to show progress in Green Bay

Last time the Eagles faced the Packers, Nelson Agholor wasn't even in uniform.

It was late last November, and Agholor was struggling so badly — seven yards in his previous two games, just 83 in his last five — that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson benched him when the Eagles faced the Packers at the Linc.

It was quite a blow for the former first-round pick, who had been a starter for two years.

"I respect the decision that Doug made," Agholor says now. "At the end of the day, Doug wants what's best for the team and myself and I appreciate whatever comes at me. Things like that happen and they make me hungrier."

Agholor didn't exactly finish strong — nine catches for 101 yards and a TD the final five weeks of the season. But the Nelson Agholor that will face the Packers Thursday night in the Eagles' preseason opener at Lambeau Field sure seems like a different guy.

"I think I have a good feel for my body and my awareness of the game right now," he said after practice Monday in the bubble. "I think I'm in a better place today than I was a year ago."

Agholor, now in his third year, has enjoyed a very good preseason, and one of the most intriguing questions facing the Eagles this summer is whether he can transfer that progress onto the football field on game day.

Thursday night is the first small step in that process.

"I've been building good habits and that's what's going to carry me come Thursday," he said. "The habits I've already built. My technique, my understanding and my speed for the game. That's what I want to show Thursday and let the plays come from that."

If Agholor can become a significant contributor to this team — still a big if — it will mark one of the greatest transformations in Eagles history.

Through two seasons, Agholor has only 59 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns. But he's won over a lot of people inside and outside the organization with his unflinching work ethic, positive attitude and accountability.

"I really do think Nelson has gotten over the hump and had a great spring and a great training camp," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

"He's just making a ton of plays out there. I mean, we're always going to have a miss or two. Every position does. But we're very pleased with how he's playing.

"You know when he's on the field. I think the defense knows when he's on the field. He's been a threat."

But this is also likely Agholor's last chance. Because of his salary situation — it would cost the Eagles $2 million more under the cap to release him than keep him — he was essentially guaranteed one last chance.

That seems like a lot of pressure, but Agholor shrugs it off.
"I don't feel pressure," he said. "It's my job. My job is to focus. I'm hard on myself already. I like to be perfect.

"That's the thing about me. A lot of people want me to perfect also, but I want to be perfect. I want to be 10-for-10 in the game, catch 10 balls, no drops, that's great. But things happen and it's about bouncing back and responding. I can't let one play stop me because the next play that I catch might be the game-winner. That's my mindset.

"I've dwelled on it too long. Now I'm trying to make sure that I continue to have that next-play mentality. Because I know I'm a good receiver and I think I have great hands and when the ball comes my way, I'm going to pluck it."

How did Agholor get to this point?

He still hasn't done it on Sunday afternoons, but he legitimately does look like a different guy this summer.

"Preparation and hard work, man," he said. "It breeds results. The harder you work and the more prepared you are, (the more) you're able to play fast and you're able to get good results. I'm really excited about that and I want to continue to have those habits continue to carry me throughout the season."

Just about everybody agrees that the change in position coaches — from Greg Lewis to Mike Groh — has helped all the receivers but in particular Agholor, who always had the tools to be a good player but never could put it all together.

"Groh's always just been about wanting me to be a special player because he sees that in me," Agholor said. "So every day he coaches me hard and he expects nothing but greatness from me. I respect that from me so I try to respond every day.

"The game of football's tough, but it's for tough people and I'm a tough person. I haven't played the greatest football yet but I want to continue to work hard to play my best football. That's my mindset.

"It's just about playing fast and making plays and being prepared, and this offseason the only thing on my mind was hard work. Just work hard every day and I'm not stopping now. I started something and I'm going to finish it."

Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

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Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

Brian Dawkins has chosen longtime teammate and close friend Troy Vincent to introduce him this summer at Dawk's Hall of Fame induction.

Dawkins was selected in February for enshrinement in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.

"The presenter that will actually be on the stage will be Troy Vincent," Dawkins said in a video posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.

"My teammate in Philadelphia. We came there the same year. Almost from Day 1 he kind of ... not kind of, he took me under his wing on becoming a professional. Not just a football player but a professional. The details. The details that he went through, the particulars of how he played the position of cornerback was the same way he lived his life (and ran) his businesses that he had off the field.

"He's a guy I can call anytime. Any time of night. And tell him 100 percent all what's going on with me, and I know he's not going to judge me, and it's not going to leave his lips (for) anybody else.

"And the most important thing for me, being a man of faith, is that I know he's going to pray with me. So all those things combined are the reasons why Troy was the perfect guy to introduce me to the Hall of Fame."

Vincent, a native of Trenton and graduate of Pennsbury High in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins before signing an offer sheet with the Eagles before the 1996 season that the Dolphins didn't match.

The Eagles drafted Dawkins in the second round a month after signing Vincent, and the two spent eight years together in the secondary, reaching the playoffs five times and the NFC Championship Game three times.

During those eight seasons, Vincent reached Pro Bowls and Dawkins made the first three of his nine Pro Bowls.

Vincent retired after the 2006 season and Dawkins after the 2011 season.

Dawkins, Vincent and Eric Allen are the only Eagles defensive backs picked to five or more Pro Bowls.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.

Dawkins' former Eagles teammate, Terrell Owens, will also be inducted. He hasn't yet announced who will present him.

Dawkins will be the 21st former Eagle inducted into the Hall of Fame but only the ninth who spent the majority of his career with the Eagles.

Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

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Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

Offseason quarterback controversies are a rite of passage in the NFL. A time-honored tradition, really. 

We’ve certainly had our share in Philadelphia over the years. There were calls for Ron Jaworski to sit in favor of a young Randall Cunningham. Then cries for Jim McMahon to take Randall’s place. When Andy Reid drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007, that began a groundswell that he was the better choice than Donovan McNabb. Of course, most recently we had the Michael Vick/Nick Foles back and forth. To look back now, it seems silly these were even debates.

Most of the time, when you have these “controversies,” it generally means you have no quarterback on your roster. Not always. The 49ers in the late-80’s and early-90’s had Joe Montana and Steve Young, both Hall of Famers and all-time great quarterbacks. Both also won Super Bowls for San Francisco. But that is the exception. So is the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles’ situation.

I use the word “situation” and not “controversy.” Because there is no controversy. If Wentz is cleared by the Eagles’ medical staff, he starts Week 1. Period. What Foles did was incredible and will go down as one of the great — if not the greatest — stretch we have seen in Philadelphia sports history. He came up as big as you can. But Wentz he is not. That’s no disrespect to Foles. There are a handful of people on the planet who are in Wentz’s class.

Just a refresher course on what Wentz did in 13 games last season (his second in the NFL, by the way). He threw for 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 3,296 passing yards and had a 101.9 passer rating. The 33 TDs were the second-most in the NFL despite his missing the final three games. He also led his team to an 11-2 record before succumbing to that knee injury late into that Rams game that clinched the NFC East. He would have been the league MVP had he not gotten hurt.

There is a great luxury having Foles on this team. Wentz does not have to come back before he is able. If he’s not ready, you have the best backup in the league to start the season. But that’s the only scenario in which Foles plays Week 1. Simply put: Wentz is the better quarterback. And he has earned the right to start the opener if cleared. 

Some people read into Wentz's Instagram video of himself throwing earlier in the week as him somehow sending a message to Foles. I don’t buy it. I think Wentz’s message was to the fans and himself that I’ll be back, better than ever.

Wentz and Foles are both good teammates who put the team above themselves. Sure, Foles is a competitor and would likely prefer to start. But there won’t be any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to undercut Wentz. And Wentz is secure enough to be able to handle a Super Bowl MVP backing him up and all that goes along with that. Not to mention a coaching staff and organization that won’t allow outside noise to become a distraction.

Wentz over Foles. There’s no quarterback controversy.