Eagles

Eagles

Nelson Agholor streaked across the field toward the Eagles' end zone on Thursday night, wide open and chasing down quarterback Carson Wentz's pass. The football hung in the air just long enough for the Lincoln Financial Field crowd to realize who it was intended for and doubt to creep in as to whether he would make the play.

Instead, Agholor came through. Roughly 70,000 people breathed a sigh of relief as the Eagles wide receiver coasted under Wentz's pass, reached out his hands and cradled the pigskin as he crossed the goal line for a 40-yard touchdown.

It was Agholor's longest catch of the entire 2016 season, not to mention his first touchdown since Week 1. More importantly, it was a pivotal moment in the Eagles' victory over the Giants, which could potentially serve as a confidence boost for the second-year player.

"It meant a lot," Agholor said postgame. "Anything I can do to help us win football games. I felt like it was one step forward toward our victory."

Agholor's struggles are well documented and even continued on Thursday prior to the touchdown.

Earlier in the game, Agholor dropped a pass that hit him right in the hands on a simple, short slant route, resulting in some boos from the Eagles' faithful. His numbers and development in general this season are disappointing for a former first-round draft pick, and the 23-year-old has gone so far as to admit confidence has become an issue.

 

So you have to wonder what is going through Agholor's mind anytime the ball is coming his way, and especially from 40 yard away, when the fans are already on his case.

"I just keep tracking it," Agholor said of his touchdown. "Because it's one of those where you get behind the defense, Carson gives you a great opportunity and you're just like, 'Hey, keep tracking it.' Focus and keep tracking it."

While it can be just as daunting at times for the Eagles playing in their own building as it is for away teams , Agholor, who was a healthy scratch against the Packers in Week 12, managed to keep his cool and bounce back.

"I think it meant a lot," Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews said. "I'm happy for him. I don't think it's an elephant in the room that people have been on him extremely hard this year. I know he's been hard on himself.

"He comes to work every single day, he has a great attitude, and the way the game started for him — dang, I really hope he can bounce back from that, and what better way to bounce back than a 40-yard touchdown?"

What is perhaps lost in the shock over Agholor's big play is the fact that it's the second time in three games he's made something happen down the field. Two weeks earlier, the oft-criticized wideout got a step on his man against Washington, and while he was unable to come up with the catch, he did draw a 44-yard pass interference penalty.

Agholor continues to experience some issues making the routine plays. That being said, while this is obviously a very small sample size, one has to wonder if it's not evidence that he's beginning to stretch the field for the Eagles' offense.

"That's huge, especially lacking that big-play touchdown as well," Wentz said. "It's been awhile, so for us as an offense and for him personally, it was huge. That's definitely something we can build on."

"He's not the type to go crazy about it," Matthews added. "He's going to get the touchdown, celebrate with his teammates, but now he's like, 'Okay, I've got to continue to get better.' He still is focused on getting better and making that a habit, and not just a one-hit wonder."

When Agholor was selected with the 20th-overall pick in 2015, there was a belief in the organization that he had the ability to take the top off of defenses. So far, we've seen that only sparingly, as the reception on Thursday was only the third of his career over 40 yards.

Count the pass interference, and all of a sudden he's made two such plays in a short period of time. There's no question the speed and talent are there. Honing those skills have been the problem for Agholor.

It's almost certainly too late to win over his detractors this season, but any step in the right direction should be taken as a positive sign for Agholor at this point. The Eagles still need help at wide receiver, and his contract likely dictates a roster spot for 2017, at least through training camp.

 

If Agholor can become a reliable deep threat at least, that would be a start. He has the right attitude and mentality, so there's still hope that even a small example of progress could be the beginning of growth in other areas as well.

"It's all about just showing that fight and then trying to grow every day, and at the end of the day, that's all I've been trying to do, and I know that's what this team is trying to do," Agholor said. "We just go in and practice, we grind and we just want to get better.

"Every day we just want to see ourselves get better from the day before and then let the chips fall where they may from there."