Nelson Agholor isn’t worried about making mistakes anymore.
He knows he’s going to make them. It’s part of the game. And he’s confident he knows how to fix them this year.
“The best thing in Year 2 compared to Year 1 is after Year 1, you’ve made the mistakes,” Agholor said Wednesday. “Now you’re not worried about if you’re going to make them, you’re worried about just lining up again and trying to make the next play.”
Agholor received criticism for his less-than-stellar stats in his rookie year, when he compiled just 283 receiving yards and one touchdown. However, plenty of standout receivers had quiet rookie seasons.
Antonio Brown had just 167 yards and zero touchdowns his rookie year. Brandon Marshall had 309 yards and two touchdowns his first year. As a rookie, Demaryius Thomas had 283 yards and two touchdowns, very similar stats to Agholor. And all three were in the top 10 in the NFL last year in receiving yards.
Additionally, the Eagles’ all-time leader in receiving yards, Harold Carmichael, had just 288 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. Mike Quick, second among wide receivers in yards in franchise history, had 156 yards and one touchdown his first year.
Essentially, sometimes it takes a year or two for a receiver to begin making a big impact; it doesn’t always happen immediately. The pressure for the 2015 class may have been greater after all five wide receivers taken in the first round the year before (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin) had good rookie years, but that isn’t a common occurrence.
And Agholor actually fared pretty well among the six receivers taken in the first round in 2015. He ranked third in receptions and receiving yards and was tied for third in touchdowns. Considering guys like Kevin White and Breshad Perriman missed the whole season with injuries, comparatively, Agholor’s season wasn’t really all that disappointing.
However, Agholor said he doesn’t really care if rookie receivers get too much criticism.
“It’s none of my business, man,” he said. “I have a job to go out there and help this team win football games. That’s what I have to strive to do every day I’m out on this practice field and every opportunity I get.”
According to SportingCharts, Agholor had four drops last year on 44 targets, tied for the eighth-highest drop rate among receivers with at least 40 targets.
Drops aren’t necessarily a sign of a lack of skill or ability. Instead, they often can be because of a lack in concentration or focus caused by uncertainty — something common in rookies in a new offense.
“I’m sure you can ask anyone,” Sam Bradford said, “I can imagine any time you’re a young player, it doesn’t matter what position they’re playing, you’re still in that process where you’re thinking a lot.”
Which Agholor was.
“I played with a little more hesitation because I was thinking,” he said. “I was thinking, I was trying a little bit too much. I just need to go out and fly around and have faith in my preparation.”
But now he’s no longer a rookie, so ideally the pro game will come more naturally. On the other hand, he’s once again learning a new offense.
“When you’re out there thinking a lot it slows you down,” said veteran wideout Rueben Randle, a second-round pick in 2012. “You can’t just go out there and play fast because you make mistakes, and more importantly, you drop balls. There’s a lot that’s going on out there, you just have to use your natural ability, for the most part, once you understand your assignment.”
Randle’s production doubled from Year 1 to Year 2, from 19 receptions for 298 yards and three touchdowns to 41 for 611 and six.
“I definitely have to progress in Year 2 from Year 1, definitely,” Agholor said. “That’s one thing that’s on my mind, it’s a constant goal from the way I approach the game with my confidence and my practice habits. So I’m definitely going to do that.”