Among the many changes Nelson Agholor has made for 2017 is a dry-erase board hanging in his locker at the NovaCare Complex. Scribbled in a corner, beside the inspirational quote of the moment, is a small box where the Eagles wide receiver tracks how many passes he’s dropped at each practice session of OTAs.
“It’s just something that you want to do to make sure you’re keeping accountable,” Agholor said on Monday. “You look at it, you try to get better each day, and you want to repeat the same habits.”
Drops have been among Agholor’s most pressing issues since joining the Eagles. The former first-round pick left 11 catchable passes go for incompletions out of 105 targets in his first two seasons — 10.5 percent of the passes that have come his way — according to Pro Football Focus. Last year alone, Agholor was on the hook for seven drops based on PFF’s data, though some more conservative counts have him down for four.
Regardless, drops were a problem, and while Agholor swears he’s not overthinking it, sure-handedness is clearly an area where he’s hoping to improve in Year 3.
“I don’t really worry about it when I go to practice,” Agholor said. “All I worry about in practice is making my plays, and focus on making every opportunity count.
“When you’re throwing the football, I try to pluck 'em. If it happens, don’t worry about it in practice, catch the next one and keep working. When you come home, you watch the film, you remind yourself ... you figure out what happened there and you get better from there.”
Agholor’s struggles with holding on to the football have always been strange. It certainly wasn’t a matter of work ethic, as the 24-year-old frequently stayed after practice to catch extra passes. He even made waves last year with the revelations he purchased his own personal JUGS machine — the very definition of taking one’s work home with them.
Now, Agholor realizes that catching hundreds, if not thousands of extra passes from a machine was not a proper simulation of what it's like on Sundays.
“It’s one thing to catch off the JUGS all the time, but then that’s not the same as coming out of an out route, or coming back on a curl or catching contested balls,” Agholor said. “So you catch from quarterback some, you can from the JUGS some, and you just train game-like situations, because that’s the most important thing.”
He also has a new approach to training and is noticeably bigger and stronger than in previous years. His mindset and outlook have improved as well, especially compared to late last year, when the pressure of failing to meet expectations was taking a visible toll.
Which brings us back to the whiteboard in his locker, which currently spotlights a quote from Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin. Agholor had the chance to pick Martin’s brain at a mutual friend’s wedding during the offseason and said the former Patriots and Jets running back shared some good advice.
“On here it says, ‘When change is necessary, not to change is destructive,’” Agholor said. “You just have to remind yourself that if you tell yourself that you’re fine, you could hurt yourself. Obviously, things aren’t going well for a reason, so you have to find change.”
The change has been evident in Agholor at OTAs, from the way he prepares, to his mindset to his performance on the field in spring practices. Whether it amounts to much for the Eagles come September remains to be seen, but Agholor is trying to do whatever it takes to turn his career around.