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 Mailbag: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

Eagles Mailbag: Faith in Nate Sudfeld, Vinny Curry signing, spreading it around

The offseason marches on with your questions. 

I already answered your first bunch, including questions on Sidney Jones, Jay Ajayi and running backs in the draft. Now, it’s time for Part 2 of 3. 

Let’s get to it: 

I got a few questions about Nate Sudfeld this week and I certainly understand why. He’s now the Eagles’ backup quarterback and Carson Wentz has finished the last two seasons on the shelf. I think there are legitimate reasons for concern. From the time the Eagles got Sudfeld, I thought he was a possible QB2. The problem here is that he is unproven; we haven’t seen much of him outside of summer practices and minimal game action. It’s somewhat of a gamble for a team with Super Bowl aspirations to go into a season with an unproven backup, especially because of Wentz’s injury history. 

But, to be clear, I like what I’ve seen from Sudfeld. He seems to be pretty athletic and has a big arm. The Eagles have shown how much they like him at every turn. This is one of those situations where I’m skeptical, but just kind of trust their evaluation. 

I don’t think the Curry signing affects Long’s decision as much as it tells us the Eagles are preparing for the possibility Long isn’t back. You have to remember, Curry can play inside and outside, so he might not take as many reps from Long as you think. We’ll see what happens soon with the draft. Long has said he doesn’t want to return as just a locker room guy and a high draft pick would take even more playing time away from him. The Eagles should hope he returns, though. Even at his age, he’s still a productive pass rusher. 

This is one of the big ideas I want to ask Doug Pederson about next week at the owners meetings. The Eagles now have a bunch of different pass catching options. They have a really talented trio of receivers to go along with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Even though Goedert is a really impressive young player, it’s hard to imagine he would be left out at times. The Eagles didn’t trade for DeSean Jackson to sit him on the bench and they aren’t pay Nelson Agholor over $9 million this season to be a spectator. And Alshon Jeffery is going to play. 

It’s a good problem to have, but Pederson needs to figure out a way to get everyone involved. It might be a nightmare for fantasy football owners, though, because I think the game plan will change based on the matchups from week to week. Some weeks they’ll go heavy 11 personnel, but I wouldn’t rule out heavy 12 personnel with Ertz and Goedert on the field sometimes too. 

I don’t. I do agree that running back and linebacker are their two most pressing needs, but I just wouldn’t use a top pick on a linebacker. Maybe they’ll surprise me, but I think it’s much more likely they leave the first two days of the draft with a running back instead of a linebacker. I still believe the Eagles will use No. 25 on a lineman (offense or defense) and will then look at running back with one of their second-round picks. I think they use a Day 3 pick on a linebacker unless they really think they found tremendous value. 

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Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Eagles are getting older, and that's a growing concern

Taken individually, all the Eagles’ moves so far this offseason make sense. 

Taken as a whole, they raise concern whether the Eagles are getting too old. More specifically, whether Howie Roseman is committing too many dollars to guys on the back end of their careers.

Jason Peters got another year. He’s 37. Jason Kelce got another year and is now signed through 2021. He’s 31. Brandon Graham got a pretty big three-year deal. He turns 31 in a couple weeks.

DeSean Jackson got a sizable contract for a guy who’s 32. Andrew Sendejo is 31. Vinny Curry turns 31 this summer. 

I’ve got no problem with any of the moves taken apart from the others. But the analytics make it pretty clear that older guys are more likely to get hurt or see their production diminish dramatically. 

We saw it last year with guys like Peters, Darren Sproles, Haloti Ngata and Mike Wallace. 

Now, young guys get hurt too, but the older you are as a team, the more you’re at risk. And when those older guys have high cap figures, it makes it tough to function when they start missing time.

According to pro sports salary cap tracker Spotrac, the Eagles had the 17th-oldest team in 2017, when they won the Super Bowl, and the ninth-oldest team last year, when they advanced a round deep in the playoffs. 

Today — and obviously rosters are nowhere near settled — the Eagles have the fifth-oldest team in the NFL.

The Eagles’ nucleus is guys in that 28-to-32 range. Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Kelce, Nigel Bradham, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Jackson, Graham, Malik Jackson. 

Who are their best players under 28? Carson Wentz is 26, Nelson Agholor is 25, their promising young defensive backs like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are all in their early 20s. Derek Barnett is only 22. 

But there are question marks about every one of them.

This is why Roseman, Joe Douglas and Co. have to nail this draft and the next couple drafts. This is a roster that really needs an infusion of young talent. 

When this current group of veteran stars moves on, who takes over?

Roseman has had only three drafts since being returned to power, and he’s taken only six guys in the first three rounds. Of that group, Wentz is a certified Pro Bowler and a star, although he still needs to show he can stay healthy. 

And Dallas Goedert certainly seems like a stud. 

But the others — Barnett, Jones, Isaac Seumalo and Douglas — are works in progress.

The Eagles have found one Pro Bowl defensive player in their last 13 drafts, and that was Cox in 2012. 

Their draft record has been better on offense, but the Lane Johnson/Ertz draft is now six years old.

The Eagles aren’t in the danger zone. Not yet. But things change quickly in the NFL and teams that can’t keep up in terms of young talent inevitably fall by the wayside.

The Eagles have three of the first 57 picks in next month’s draft, and as of now they have their own picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 draft, plus two 5’s in addition to the compensatory picks they’re stockpiling.

So the opportunity is there to get younger. To get faster and more durable. To find the talent to remain a perennial contender for a deep postseason run.

Right now, the Eagles have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. I see them as a legit Super Bowl contender.

But in the next few years, the face of the Eagles will change dramatically. 

To remain competitive, to remain elite, they need stars to emerge once guys like Peters, Graham, Jenkins, Jackson and Kelce either move on, retire or experience a downturn in their productiveness.

All they have to do is find them.

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