Eagles

Why Mike Groh thinks it's 'probably not fair' to say Nelson Agholor has regressed

Why Mike Groh thinks it's 'probably not fair' to say Nelson Agholor has regressed

Despite some pretty clear statistical evidence and the benefit of the eye test, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Tuesday pushed back against the idea that Nelson Agholor has regressed this year. 

“I would say that that’s probably not fair,” Groh said. 

But through 10 games in 2019, Agholor has just 36 catches for 322 yards and three touchdowns. He has four drops and has caught the ball on just 57.1 percent of his targets. That ranks 62nd in catch percentage out of 72 receivers with at least 50 targets this season. 

So why doesn’t Groh think it’s fair to say Agholor has regressed? 

I would say that over the last two years, he’s had to wear a lot of different hats in our offense due to the attrition at the position. One of his strengths is his mental flexibility and his ability to learn. He knows the entire system as well as everybody, so he’s able to handle a lot from that standpoint. The flip side of that coin is he gets moved around. 

“In 2017, he was able to really stay in one spot each and every week. We were healthy the entire year. We had the same three, four guys rotating and performing the same job. His job description has changed the last couple of years due to necessity and I understand the question, but to me, he’s still the same player.

Some of that is certainly fair. Agholor has been asked to do a lot more this season than he was in 2017, when he was strictly a slot receiver with a healthy Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith manning the outside receiver positions. 

But thanks to injuries this year to DeSean Jackson and Jeffery, the Eagles have been relying on Agholor. He’s left too many plays on the field. 

Even just from a statistical standpoint, he’s regressed. Look at his yards per game in his career: 

2015: 21.8 
2016: 24.3
2017: 48.0
2018: 46.0 
2019: 32.2 

The guy we’re seeing every Sunday in 2019 looks a lot more like the 2016 version of Agholor than the 2017 version. And the guy we’re seeing in 2019 is getting paid $9.4 million to do it. 

With that contract and with his role in the offense, it’s not unrealistic to expect Agholor to make some difficult catches, but he’s even struggled with routine ones at times this season. 

On Sunday, there were two plays that really stood out. Sure, he made a great leaping grab in the middle of the field, but failed to haul in two potential touchdown passes. 

The one that everyone keeps talking about was on fourth down late in the fourth quarter. It would have been a really good catch, but receivers are sometimes allowed to make really good catches. 

“On the last play, when they went zero (blitz) and we laid the ball out there, Carson was trying to give him an opportunity to make a play,” Groh said. “That’s a tough adjustment based on the direction and the target line we have him on and where the ball kind of fell back over his inside shoulder. He’s the kind of guy that would say he would love to make that play. But that wasn’t a routine play, that would have been a really, really good play. And two guys making a good play in the circumstances that called for, but we didn’t get it done.”

The other play came earlier in the game. It was an off-script chance at the back of the end zone and it looked like Agholor just lost where he was on the field.  

“That play was really designed for a different coverage structure,” Groh said. “And he had a completely — really a completely different assignment had they played the intended or expected coverage, and so he was really just reacting to the situation as the play got extended. And then the ball took him to the corner of the end zone on that one.”

Agholor is 26 now and in his fifth NFL season. He’s had a really strange career and it seems like he has now returned to the bottom of the bell curve. 

He’ll be a free agent after this season and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be back in Philadelphia next year. It’s even harder to figure out what his worth will be on the open market. 

But there are still six games left in this season and the Eagles would get a huge boost if Agholor can help out a little more. 

“Got a lot of confidence in Nelson Agholor,” Groh said. “He’s one of the reasons we’ve had success here and I know he’ll continue to be one.”

Groh might truly believe that, but it’s likely to be a hard sell for everyone else. 

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Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson hoping to mix new face Jay Ajayi into Eagles' running attack

Doug Pederson said he hopes to get recently re-acquired running back Jay Ajayi more involved in the offense as the Eagles head into the stretch run.

Ajayi has eight carries for 25 yards and a 3.1 average in two games since returning to the Eagles following a year layoff. 

A Pro Bowler in 2016 with the Dolphins and a stud down the stretch during the Super Bowl season, Ajayi suffered a torn ACL in Week 5 last year and didn’t play from Oct. 7, 2018, until Nov. 24, 2019, when he made his 2019 debut against the Seahawks.

Ajayi didn't have OTAs or a training camp and didn't even practice until the Wednesday before the Seattle game. 

It's a process with him, but we understand who he is and the injury that he's coming off of, so we're careful with that,” Pederson said. “But at the same time, he's a bigger, powerful guy that we can use in spots.

With Jordan Howard missing the last three games with nerve damage in his shoulder, rookie Miles Sanders has essentially been the entire running attack. But the Eagles are so hesitant to increase his workload significantly that it’s created a situation in which the Eagles just haven’t run the ball very much during their three-game losing streak because they haven’t had a viable second option.

During these last three games, Sanders has 40 carries, Ajayi eight and Boston Scott seven.

This is the first time the Eagles have leaned this heavily on one back in a three-game stretch since 2012. 

During a late-season three-game stretch in which LeSean McCoy was hurt, Bryce Brown got 52 carries and Dion Lewis had four.

The Eagles ran 45 percent of the time in the nine games Howard played and 31 percent since he got hurt. They’re 0-3 without him.

Miles has done a great job,” Pederson said Saturday. “I’d love to get Jay a few more touches and get Boston in the mix so we're not obviously wearing Miles down here this last month of the season.

The current stretch is the first in franchise history that the Eagles have thrown at least 40 times and run the ball 23 or fewer times in three straight games.

Howard hasn’t played since before the bye week and is out for the Eagles’ game Monday night against the Giants. 

Pederson said earlier in the week he doesn’t expect this to be a season-ending injury, but will Howard be able to pick up where he left off after such a long layoff even if he does return?

The Eagles began the season with Howard, Sanders, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles in what looked to be a deep running back rotation. 

Sanders is the only one of that group left. Can Ajayi make a difference after such a long layoff? Sounds like Pederson wants to find out.

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Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Eagles Injury Update: Latest on Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard

Updated: 3:39 p.m.

Derek Barnett and Nelson Agholor will likely be game-time decisions for Monday Night Football, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Saturday morning. 

Barnett (ankle) and Agholor (knee) both missed all three days of practice this week and are listed as questionable.

Meanwhile, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was just placed in protocol on Thursday and won't play Monday night. 

And Jordan Howard (shoulder) has still not been cleared for contact; he can’t play until he is and that’s not happening before Monday. He's officially questionable. 

Lane Johnson also missed practice on Friday and Saturday for a non-injury reason but is expected to play on Monday. 

If Agholor is unable to play, the Eagles would be left with just three healthy receivers on the roster: Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward. 

“We’re very comfortable, obviously, with the guys we have,” Pederson said. “So if it’s three, it’s three. We brought up [Josh Perkins] a week ago to help us there, so it’s an addition there. We go and we go play. We’ll discuss those over the next couple of days leading up to the game. If we have to make a decision we will. We feel good with the guys we have in that receiver role.” 

If the Eagles do decide to make a roster move, they have three wide receivers on their practice squad: Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Marken Michel. 

While Agholor had his knee injury before last week’s game, Barnett got hurt during the loss in Miami, but was still able to play through the injury and play 50 snaps. Barnett has played the third-most defensive snaps on the team this year, so losing him for this game wouldn’t be insignificant. 

If Barnett can’t play, expect Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry to get more reps. After that, Genard Avery, Daeshon Hall and even Shareef Miller could see a few snaps. 

For the Giants: 

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