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:
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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