In the 2017 Super Bowl season, Nelson Agholor went from first-round bust to legitimate dangerous weapon.
There’s no question that he was the breakout performer from the 2017 season, although there were plenty of other candidates. What Agholor did last season, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns, was remarkable.
With Agholor’s performance last year in mind, let’s take a look ahead at five candidates to have a breakout season in 2018:
He’s a rookie tight end in a system that’s incredibly demanding on tight ends, he’s behind a Pro Bowler on the depth chart and he’s coming from the FCS. That doesn’t sound like a promising combination for picking a breakout player. But Goedert could end up being an impact player.
While he went to South Dakota State, he played in a complex college offense. And even though he’s behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart, there’s still going to be plenty of opportunity with Trey Burton and Brent Celek gone. There might be a learning curve, but Goedert has a chance to make an impact immediately, especially in the red zone, where his athleticism ought to take over (see story).
Entering his second season, Barnett still appears to have the chance to be special. He turned in a five-sack rookie season and has the ability to add more to that. Barnett might be penciled in behind Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett on the depth chart, but defensive line coach Chris Wilson said earlier this season that he expects Barnett to compete for a starting gig. That’s pretty high praise, thinking he could knock off Pro Bowl-caliber starters.
What really impressed Wilson about Barnett is that he kept getting better as an all-around player last year, even as he played through a sports hernia. Barnett can be a three-down player in the NFL because he has the ability to pass-rush and stuff the run, which both are very important in Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Howie Roseman during the draft said he kind of viewed Jones as a part of this year’s draft class after the talented corner basically red-shirted last season coming off an Achilles tear. Jones doesn’t consider himself a rookie, though. He’s been in the Eagles’ building for over a year and has a really good grasp of the defense and the corner position in the defense.
Even if Jones doesn’t become the Eagles’ slot cornerback, I don’t think they can keep him off the field. Barring injury, I think he’s going to play a lot in 2018 and has a chance to show people why he would have been a first-round pick last spring.
The problem for Hollins might be less about ability and more about opportunity. Because he’s behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Agholor on the depth chart and Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson could possibly steal snaps from him. But the Eagles like Hollins, who had just 16 catches and one touchdown during his rookie season. In last year’s playoffs, Hollins had just one catch for nine yards.
So why might he have a chance to break out? Well, to start, Hollins does have some big-play ability. That’s part of why the Eagles drafted him and he’s still the team’s fourth receiver. The other reason is that Doug Pederson hired his former college position coach, Gunter Brewer, to coach Eagles receivers. That’s a two-sided argument. First, having Brewer around should help Hollins. Second, it might give some idea of how much the Eagles like the second-year wideout.
This will be Grugier-Hill’s third season with the Eagles after having played just 86 defensive snaps over his first two seasons in the NFL. But for now, he appears to be in the lead to take the weakside linebacker spot vacated by Mychal Kendricks. Remember, the team will also be without Nigel Bradham in the opener, giving Grugier-Hill another possible chance.
And there’s plenty to like about Grugier-Hill. The Hawaiian special teamer is a really impressive athlete and has really good coverage ability for a linebacker, having played safety at Eastern Illinois. The Eagles really like his athleticism and it might be time to see it show on defense, not just special teams.