Eagles

Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

New Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh has known about Nelson Agholor for over half a decade. 

Groh was the receivers coach at Alabama from 2011-12, the exact time Agholor, a five-star prospect out of Tampa, Florida, was making his college decision. Agholor went to USC and ended up being a first-round pick a few years later. 

What did Groh think of Agholor back then? 

"Well, we recruited him at Alabama," Groh said Friday, breaking into a smile. "We thought he was pretty good. And still think that."

Groh, 45, was hired this offseason to replace former wideouts coach Greg Lewis, the only casualty from Doug Pederson's first staff. Perhaps part of the reason Lewis was let go was that the young receivers in the building — Agholor included — failed to improve throughout the 2016 season. 

From the time Agholor was drafted by the Eagles with the 20th pick in 2015, the USC product has been a disappointment. Thrust into a starting role, Agholor simply hasn't lived up to his draft status and last year things got so bad, Pederson was forced to give him a mental health game day during the season.

Groh wasn't here for any of that. He was with the Bears in 2015 and with the Rams in 2016. All he knows of Agholor as a pro is the tape he's watched from last season and from seeing Agholor on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp this spring. 

"Nelson Agholor is a first-round pick and has first-round talent," Groh said. 

This spring, Agholor has actually shown it. 

Now, every Agholor story that has come out of spring practices has been and should be met with a great level of apprehension. Until Agholor actually shows he can perform in a game, skepticism is just. 

But all Groh can go on is what he's seen this spring. And what he's seen has been pretty darn good. 

"I've been really pleased with the spring that he had," Groh said. "He had a really productive spring. He attacked the spring. He's shown up and made an impact at virtually every practice. Really excited about where he's at right now."

Agholor, 24, was the standout star of this year's spring practices. And after Jordan Matthews was forced out of practice with a knee injury, Agholor took over in the slot and impressed even more. Groh really likes Agholor's versatility, saying it makes him valuable in the Eagles' offense. 

With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews on the team, Agholor seems destined to fill a backup role this season, which might be better for him — a chance to develop without the bright lights a starting job brings with it. That spotlight really got to Agholor last year and his confidence was clearly shaken. 

"I think confidence is a result of demonstrative performance," Groh said. "The more positive results he has in practice, I think that will elevate his confidence. He's had a really good spring from that standpoint."

From the time Groh arrived, he's been working on the basics with Agholor, although he mentioned that not specific to the former first-rounder. Agholor spent his spring tracking his drops during OTAs, a practice that is uniquely Nelson Agholor, concerned — perhaps overly — about the details. 

The Eagles hope it works. They hope Groh is the guy to help get some return out of their former first-round pick. 

On Friday, Groh echoed something he used to hear from coaching great Bill Parcells: "By the third year, a guy ought to tell you who he's going to be at this level." 

The clock is ticking. This season will be Year 3 for Agholor. 

Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

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Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

Hot tempers
The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

Long drive
After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

Deep connection
Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

Kicking woes
The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

Up next
Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."