Eagles

Don't be so quick to write off Nelson Agholor

Don't be so quick to write off Nelson Agholor

Nelson Agholor isn’t worried about making mistakes anymore.

He knows he’s going to make them. It’s part of the game. And he’s confident he knows how to fix them this year.

“The best thing in Year 2 compared to Year 1 is after Year 1, you’ve made the mistakes,” Agholor said Wednesday. “Now you’re not worried about if you’re going to make them, you’re worried about just lining up again and trying to make the next play.”

Agholor received criticism for his less-than-stellar stats in his rookie year, when he compiled just 283 receiving yards and one touchdown. However, plenty of standout receivers had quiet rookie seasons.

Antonio Brown had just 167 yards and zero touchdowns his rookie year. Brandon Marshall had 309 yards and two touchdowns his first year. As a rookie, Demaryius Thomas had 283 yards and two touchdowns, very similar stats to Agholor. And all three were in the top 10 in the NFL last year in receiving yards.

Additionally, the Eagles’ all-time leader in receiving yards, Harold Carmichael, had just 288 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. Mike Quick, second among wide receivers in yards in franchise history, had 156 yards and one touchdown his first year.

Essentially, sometimes it takes a year or two for a receiver to begin making a big impact; it doesn’t always happen immediately. The pressure for the 2015 class may have been greater after all five wide receivers taken in the first round the year before (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin) had good rookie years, but that isn’t a common occurrence.

And Agholor actually fared pretty well among the six receivers taken in the first round in 2015. He ranked third in receptions and receiving yards and was tied for third in touchdowns. Considering guys like Kevin White and Breshad Perriman missed the whole season with injuries, comparatively, Agholor’s season wasn’t really all that disappointing.

However, Agholor said he doesn’t really care if rookie receivers get too much criticism.

“It’s none of my business, man,” he said. “I have a job to go out there and help this team win football games. That’s what I have to strive to do every day I’m out on this practice field and every opportunity I get.”

According to SportingCharts, Agholor had four drops last year on 44 targets, tied for the eighth-highest drop rate among receivers with at least 40 targets.

Drops aren’t necessarily a sign of a lack of skill or ability. Instead, they often can be because of a lack in concentration or focus caused by uncertainty — something common in rookies in a new offense.

“I’m sure you can ask anyone,” Sam Bradford said, “I can imagine any time you’re a young player, it doesn’t matter what position they’re playing, you’re still in that process where you’re thinking a lot.”

Which Agholor was.

“I played with a little more hesitation because I was thinking,” he said. “I was thinking, I was trying a little bit too much. I just need to go out and fly around and have faith in my preparation.”

But now he’s no longer a rookie, so ideally the pro game will come more naturally. On the other hand, he’s once again learning a new offense.

“When you’re out there thinking a lot it slows you down,” said veteran wideout Rueben Randle, a second-round pick in 2012. “You can’t just go out there and play fast because you make mistakes, and more importantly, you drop balls. There’s a lot that’s going on out there, you just have to use your natural ability, for the most part, once you understand your assignment.”

Randle’s production doubled from Year 1 to Year 2, from 19 receptions for 298 yards and three touchdowns to 41 for 611 and six.

“I definitely have to progress in Year 2 from Year 1, definitely,” Agholor said. “That’s one thing that’s on my mind, it’s a constant goal from the way I approach the game with my confidence and my practice habits. So I’m definitely going to do that.”

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Time for a decision on Alshon

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Time for a decision on Alshon

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at wide receivers:

Alshon Jeffery 

Roob: This is the ultimate stay or go this offseason. I guess Alshon and Jason Peters. He really is the Eagles’ most talented wide receiver, and it’ll be a cap killer if they cut him. I just can’t get past not wanting him around. Addition by subtraction. I don’t even know if there’s a practical way that he goes. Any trade value, and I don’t think there was much, has been compromised by his foot injury. But I’m sticking to what I’ve said for a while now. He goes because it just doesn’t make sense for him to be here anymore.

Verdict: Goes 

Dave: This is a really tough one. On one hand, it seems like the Eagles are stuck with the soon-to-be 30-year-old receiver after (oopsie daisy) guaranteeing his contract for 2020. On the other hand, it seems like they desperately need to move on. But how? Cutting him would be a cap disaster. Trading him would probably take a Brock Osweiler deal, sending him with a draft pick just so someone will take on that ridiculous contract for a malcontent with a Lisfranc injury. Yikes. There’s a good chance he’ll be on the PUP to start the season anyway so the Eagles can push back this looming decision. I think the Eagles would like to get away from Alshon, but ultimately, they’re stuck with him in some capacity next season. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Ideally, Jeffery would not be costing the Eagles almost $16 million against the cap in 2020, and that was before he suffered a Lisfranc injury. Whether because of age or injury, he simply did not perform at a high level last season, plus everybody is pretty sure he's talking smack on Carson Wentz. The problem is the team can't easily get rid of Jeffery. Cutting him will cost more against the cap than keeping him, and a trade seems unlikely since he may not even be healthy to start the season. Howie Roseman has been able to get out of some tough contracts in the past -- Byron Maxwell comes to mind -- but this looks like a real pickle. On the other hand, Jeffery might be motivated once he returns, because this is essentially becoming a contract year at 30, so maybe it winds up working out in the Eagles' favor. 

Verdict: Stays

DeSean Jackson 

Roob: Lost season after opening day, and he’ll be 34 late next season but where else are you going to find a guy with his skill set? You can’t replace an entire wide receiver corps, so keep DeSean and just hope that he can stay healthy at an age where most wide outs are retiring. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Losing DeSean last season killed the Eagles. He’s 33 and coming off an injury, so I don’t think the Eagles can go into next season relying on him. They need to add receivers this offseason but that doesn’t mean Jackson should be gone. Because if he’s able to get on the field next year, he’s still fast and can still do DeSean things. It would be a nice boost — but also a bonus — for the Eagles if he can help in 2020. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Of all the injuries during the 2019 season, none had a greater impact than Jackson's (besides Wentz's concussion at the end, obviously). Seeing the connection those two had in camp and even Week 1 of the regular season, it really felt like they were destined to have a monster year together. So while the Eagles will be making a concerted effort to get younger and the oft-injured Jackson is 33, the club should really give it another go and hope he can stay healthy. There's no real cap benefit to moving on anyway. 

Verdict: Stays

Nelson Agholor 

Roob: Come on now!

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Agholor had one of the weirdest Eagles careers ever. A disappointing first-round pick to a Super Bowl hero to complete liability and target of the funniest viral moment of 2019. His five-year stint in Philadelphia was a perfect bell curve. Both parties know it’s time to move on. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: What a strange player. Agholor has plenty of talent -- that much was evident in 2017 and '18 -- and nobody outworks the guy. For whatever reason though, he forgot how to play wide receiver. He can't catch the ball, can't even locate it in the air, and when he does manage to find it and hang on, there's something like a 50-50 chance he'll fumble it without anybody touching him. Agholor could probably play another eight seasons and he'll probably have one or two good ones or figure it out toward the end, but right now, the dude is a head case, not to mention a free agent.

Verdict: Goes

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Roob: He stays just because there’s no reason he shouldn’t stay, but definitely a discouraging rookie year. He played 486 snaps on offense and caught 10 passes. I never count out anybody after one season, but the Eagles need him to be dramatically better in 2020.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: One year into his career, it certainly looks like JJAW was a wasted pick. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s a bust just yet and the Eagles owe it to him and themselves to see this through. Early returns just aren’t very good. Still, gotta give him another chance. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: It seems clear the Eagles should've drafted D.K. Metcalf instead of Arcega-Whiteside. Then again, it's hard to say whether Metcalf would've developed as quickly under this coaching staff. Get a decent receivers coach, and maybe JJAW can still become a competent target. Though he probably won't ever be as good as the guy the team could've had.  

Verdict: Stays

Greg Ward 

Roob: Ward showed me enough after his promotion from the practice squad that I want him to be a part of this team moving forward. The Eagles still need outside firepower, but 31 catches for 278 yards in his first eight career games makes you take notice. If he can be a 60-for-600 type of guy out of the slot you’ll take that. I don’t think it’s a lock he’s back. Depends how much new blood they bring in at WR. But I like Ward. I want him back.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Is Ward going to be the long-time slot guy for the Eagles? I’m not sold on that. But I know he gave them more than Agholor this year and he was a big reason for the late-season push to the playoffs. He’ll be back on the roster in 2020. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: It's been obvious to anybody who's had a chance to see him in OTAs and training camp the past couple years that Ward had the potential to be a nice little role player. He finally got the chance in 2020, and was easily the Eagles' best receiver down the stretch, though he showed his limitations as well, averaging 9.1 yards per catch. A pure slot receiver who can reliably field a punt and makes the league minimum, and there's room for that on this roster. 

Verdict: Stays

Deontay Burnett

Roob: He showed up when the Eagles needed him the most with a 41-yard catch in the must-win season-ending game against the Giants. I’d expect the Eagles to bring him in for camp next summer, and I’d have no problem keeping him on the practice squad. But if he’s on the 53-man roster after final cuts the Eagles had a really bad offseason.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: OK, now we’re getting into these guys. That long catch was pretty cool. He’s going to be one of about a million receivers at training camp this summer and maybe one of them has a great camp and makes the roster. Probably not for Burnett though. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Joined the practice squad in December and was starting by the end of the season, which says more about the roster and injuries than it does Burnett. He flashed some potential with three catches for 53 yards between Week 17 and the wild card game, but the Eagles need to draft a whole slew of receivers, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the guys on this list.

Verdict: Goes

Robert Davis 

Roob: Davis had a couple moments after being activated from the practice squad, and it’ll be interesting to see what the former Redskin does in training camp, but like Burnett, he’ll be on the outside looking in once the season begins. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I’m a little intrigued to see Davis this summer. He’s big, fast, strong and none of that really mattered when he found the field with the Eagles this season. Maybe it will with a full offseason here. But …  

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: If he never appears in another game in Philadelphia -- not at all unlikely -- Davis will be the 10th wide receiver in the Super Bowl era to finish his Eagles career with one catch. His name will be there with other franchise legends such as Seyi Ajirotutu, Alex Van Dyke, Troy Smith, Reggie Lawrence, Carlos Carson, Bobby Duckworth, Jerrold McRae, Stan Davis and Vince Papale. OK, that last one was pretty good. And yes, I just out-Roobed Roob. 

Verdict: Goes

Shelton Gibson 

Roob: One of the stranger stories of the 2019 postseason was Gibson – who spent the entire regular season on the Browns’ practice squad – being responsible for the Eagles’ longest play of the Seahawks game. A 39-yard DPI. He only played two snaps all year – regular season and postseason combined. Gibson still has only three career receptions - actual receptions -  in three seasons.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Gibson is a pretty good gunner. And he drew that DPI in the playoff game. But there’s a reason he didn’t work out in his first stint here. And there’s a reason he’s not going to work out now. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: It's mystifying the Eagles waited so long to bring Gibson back given some of the bodies they were trotting out there -- Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, for example. Then again, they never really gave Gibson a shot when he was here the first time, so clearly they're not very high on the kid.

Verdict: Goes

Marcus Green 

Roob: Green was the only wide receiver who was on the practice squad all year. Probably not a good sign that the Eagles promoted four other wide receivers - Ward, Gibson, Burnett and Davis - from the practice squad, bypassing Green each time. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: My guess is the Eagles see Green as a developmental player with some upside. They kept him on the practice squad all year as they brought up just about everyone else. I see him as more of a gadgety player. The success of Boston Scott this year might doom him even more than the numbers game at receiver. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: A sixth-round pick by the Falcons in 2019, Green is undersized at 5-foot-8, but does have sub-4.4 speed. The fact that the Eagles targeted him for a futures contract is interesting, but he'll be battling for a spot on the practice squad more than likely. Maybe he makes it, maybe he doesn't.

Verdict: Goes

Marken Michel 

Roob: It was surprising the Eagles activated Shelton Gibson for the playoffs instead of Michel, who had spent the offseason with the Eagles. Michel had a solid training camp and seems to catch the ball well, and he’s got decent size. Like all these other practice squad guys, I’d expect him to get a look-see over the summer, and I won't say he'll never make it to the 53. But he won't be on the initial 53.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: As anyone who listens to the Eagle Eye podcast can probably tell you, I think Michel can play. I don’t understand why the Eagles brought the 26-year-old back to the practice squad and didn’t promote him. That doesn’t make any sense. I’d like to say I think Michel can make the roster with a good summer but he had a good summer in 2019 and it still didn’t happen. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: The most telling thing about Michel is he was actually on the roster in training camp, yet the Eagles were signing guys off other teams' practice squads rather than promoting him to the 53 at the end of the season. He's a gamer, but lacks the athleticism to play at this level.

Verdict: Goes

River Cracraft 

Roob: You hope he makes it just because of his name. Here’s some of that Dave Zangaro detective work: Carcraft played for Mike Leach at Washington State, where his position coach was Graham Harrell, who is now USC offensive coordinator and on the Eagles’ short list for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Not sure that’s enough to get him a job.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Cracraft has actually played in nine NFL games and has gotten some work as a punt return and kick return man. He has 12 punt returns for … drum roll please … 40 yards. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Oh, come on, these aren't even real people anymore.

Verdict: Goes

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How close were the Eagles to keeping Raheem Mostert?

How close were the Eagles to keeping Raheem Mostert?

Several years before his monster game for the 49ers over the Packers, Raheem Mostert was just another undrafted rookie trying to make the Eagles' roster. Mostert on Sunday became the first player in NFL history with 200 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.

Four years ago, he was an Eagle. Here's a story NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank wrote on about Mostert's preseason back in August of 2015.

•••

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just when we were all set to concede a roster spot to Kenjon Barner, Raheem Mostert does this.

Fifteen carries for 69 yards, eight catches for 93 yards and quite a statement that if the Eagles are going to keep a fourth running back, it should be him.

Barner, a third-year pro from Oregon, was terrific the first few games of the preseason, with two punt returns for touchdowns, a 50-yard gain on a screen pass and a rushing touchdown.

Mostert, a rookie from Purdue, has quietly been very good playing in Barner’s shadow, but with Barner getting just a couple touches Thursday night against the Jets, it was Mostert’s turn to shine.

He became the first Eagle in at least 15 years with 60 or more yards both rushing and receiving in the same preseason game.

For what it’s worth, only five Eagles in the last 50 years have had 60 rushing yards and 90 receiving yards in a regular-season game -- Brian Westbrook four times, Wilbert Montgomery three times and Timmy Brown, Ricky Watters and LeSean McCoy once each.

“I was just really trying to focus on the task at hand and trying to make a couple big plays out there and help the team out,” Mostert said at his locker.

“That was my main focus. I thought I did a pretty good job, but there’s always room for improvement. But I really tried my best and that’s all I can do.

“I came in with focus, My mentality was I’m going to stick it out, I’m not going to quit, I’m going to keep fighting, keep pushing, and at the end of the day that’s all anybody ever asks me to do in the NFL.”

Mostert finished the preseason with 351 yards from scrimmage, most by an Eagle in a preseason in at least 20 years.

That’s a ton of yards. Nearly 90 per game.

He averaged 4.0 yards on 39 carries and added 194 yards on 14 catches.

No back in the NFL had as many yards from scrimmage this preseason or as many total yards, including returns. He finished fourth in the NFL this preseason in receiving yards and fifth in rushing yards.

All of which guarantees Mostert absolutely nothing.

Barner’s numbers were impressive too. And with DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles -- three Pro Bowlers -- there may not even be a spot on the 53-man roster for a fourth running back.

Final cuts are due Saturday, but head coach Chip Kelly is expected to trim the Eagles’ roster on Friday afternoon.

“I’m not really too worried about it,” Mostert said. “Whatever happens happens. I’m just going to continue to push and just do my thing. Honestly. I’m not too worried about the cuts. I’m going to just work on what I’ve got to work on, regardless.”

Mostert was a two-time Big East sprint champ in college, but unlike most track guys that come to the NFL, he’s a physical runner, a capable blocker and a polished receiver.

“When you look at some of those track guys, you’re like, ‘OK, they’re fast and that’s about it. They can’t catch, they can’t block,’” Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley said. “He’s totally different. He brings a lot to the table. He’s aggressive, he can block, he can catch.”

There’s a school of thought that Barner, as a third-year pro who’s bounced around the league a bit, will be easier to sneak through waivers if he’s released. So you keep Mostert instead of leaving him unprotected and release Barner, hoping to add him to the practice squad.

The other school of thought says that Barner has done more than enough to warrant a roster spot and you keep him and let Mostert go, hoping nobody claims him, then bring him back on the practice squad.

The only certainty is that Mostert will be somewhere. Either on a 53 or on a practice squad.

Not that he wants to get released and start over somewhere else.

“I definitely think that [I’ll be somewhere], but I’m not going to be happy about it,” he said. “I know I can do a lot more and minimize the mistakes that I’ve had because I’ve had a lot of mistakes.

“It’s all on what I put on film, that’s what really matters. I’ve just got to continue to do the little things right in order to be special and be great for the team.

“Whatever the outcome is, I’m not too worried about it. I’ve just got to keep pushing, keep fighting. … Just to be the ultimate player.”

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