It’s been five years since Doug Pederson benched slumping Nelson Agholor for a game, and it’s fair to wonder whether Nick Sirianni should do the same thing with Jalen Reagor.
Pederson was in his first season as Eagles head coach in 2016 when Agholor suffered through a nightmarish game against the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 11. Pederson sat him vs. the Packers a week later, and although Nelly didn’t exactly turn into a Pro Bowler overnight, he looks back at the experience as a positive in his career, which is now in Year 7.
The similarities between Agholor in 2016 and Reagor in 2021 are extensive, and watching Reagor drop two potential TD passes in the final seconds of the Eagles’ loss to the Giants Sunday was enough to wonder if Reagor could benefit the same way as Agholor.
Pederson, who was with Agholor four years and Reagor for one year, spoke about it on the Takeoff podcast with John Clark.
“(Agholor) was getting beat up in the media, he was getting booed out of the stadium every time he walked out, and it was unfair to the player and it really felt at that time for Nelson, I thought the best thing was to take a week or two (off),” Pederson said.
“So we said, ‘Let’s take one week, you’re not going to play, I want you to just work on the scout team this week, I want you to take every rep there, I want you to feel comfortable, just be relaxed, just open yourself up to the game a little bit, free your mind, free your body and soul a little bit, and let’s just see what happens.
“And it really impacted his life. Even at the end of the season I can remember how appreciative he was of that moment. It made a big impact on his life and you can see where he’s at now, the career he’s had and is still having, and Jalen, he might be in that same situation right now.”
Nelly went on to catch 124 passes for 1,504 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 and was 9-for-84 in the Super Bowl, with three consecutive 1st-down receptions on the game-winning drive.
He went on to have a career-high 896 yards with eight TDs with the Raiders last year and has 32-for-416 for the Patriots this year.
Agholor averaged 23.8 yards per game before he got benched and 41.0 since. Reagor? He’s averaging 25.2 yards per game.
Sirianni has said he has no plans to sit Reagor, but Pederson thinks it could help.
“Just maybe take a step back and see it from a clearer picture, right? That 30,000-foot perspective so to speak,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe that would help him. I just know he’s just got to continue to work hard in practice and meetings and whatever he can do to help overcome this setback right now in his career.”
As a coach who’s been around both Agholor and Reagor, Pederson spoke of the stress that can come with being a 1st-round pick in Philadelphia. Especially one who doesn’t experience immediate success.
“It goes back to … some of the anxiety and some of the added pressure, some of the unwanted added pressure, but it’s pressure from the outside, whether it be from media, from fans, from himself, to perform and perform well, and you get in situations where you start to tighten up and he’s just got to learn to relax,” Pederson said.
“He’s another young player that’s got a lot of talent, a lot of ability, that can really help that football team win, and he’s just got to control that somehow, some way, and I think it comes through growth. But at the same time I would recommend that he stay off social media, don’t listen to the news, try to block out as much as you can and just focus on your craft and focus on your skill and continue to work hard every single day.
“I’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in him because I’ve been around him long enough to know he’s one of those hard workers and he’s going to do whatever it takes to get better and to help that team win.”
The biggest game of Reagor’s career was the first game of his career. The longest catch of his career was in the first game of his career. He even started out OK this year, with 13 catches for 107 yards in the Eagles’ first three games.
But in the last nine, he has 12 catches for 95 yards. That’s 10½ yards per game over half a season.
“Jalen’s got a lot of talent,” Pederson said. “It’s just with him, some guys develop a little bit faster than other guys in this league and Jalen’s a guy that you’ve got to continue to work with and get him on the right track."
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