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August 07, 2017

After two rough seasons, Nelson Agholor discusses mentality in trying to bounce back

With rain coming down in South Philadelphia on Monday morning, just three days away from the preseason opener in Green Bay, the Eagles crammed into the practice bubble at the NovaCare Complex. And in the midst of what has been an impressive individual training camp, Nelson Agholor stood out for, well, the same reasons he has during his trying first two NFL seasons.

Mmm… Drop.

In an 11-on-11 drill, Agholor roasted Jalen Mills on a deep pattern, creating close to five yards of separation. Carson Wentz made an easy throw to the end zone, and… DOINK! Agholor maintained that the ball bounced off his helmet as opposed it his pads, but regardless, the catch frankly needs to be made by an NFL receiver.

“I left one out there, I couldn’t see it,” Agholor said. “It is what it is, but that’s going to happen though. You’re going to be in stadiums with big lights and indoor stadiums, so that’s why after I tried to work on tracking the ball, little tennis balls so I can use my eyes better.”

Indeed, Agholor was working with tennis balls after practice along with Rodney McLeod, which he indicated helps with tracking passes in the air.

A first-round pick in 2015, Agholor’s first two seasons in Philadelphia have been massively disappointing. After a rookie year when Pro Football Focus graded Agholor as the worst receiver in the NFL, he followed it up by managing only 36 receptions for 365 yards in 2016.

Perhaps Agholor’s worst moments came in a loss in Seattle, when his illegal formation penalty negated a long Zach Ertz touchdown catch on one drive and then his drop (what should’ve been an easy reception) stalled the next one. Heading into his third season, Agholor admitted that he has allowed past mistakes to slow him down.

“It didn’t stop me, but I dwelled on it too long,” Agholor said. “Now I’m trying to make sure I continue to have a next-play mentality because I know I’m a good receiver and I think I have great hands. At the end of the day, the ball comes my way, I’m going to pluck it.”

Agholor believes he’s “in a better place” than last season due to his offseason preparation. The USC product lining up both in the slot and outside during training camp has led to speculation that he could be the Eagles slot receiver, a position that has belonged to Jordan Matthews.

When asked about potentially moving inside, Agholor downplayed any friction with Matthews. But after struggling for two seasons primarily as an outside target, a change of scenery could theoretically benefit Agholor.

“Outside, you know you got yourself a little island out there, you know your third and you know the DB’s leverage,” Agholor said. “When you play inside, you can be more creative and you have more grass in there.”

Regardless of where he has played, the Eagles coaches have sung Agholor’s praises all throughout the offseason. On Monday, offensive coordinator said he believes Agholor “has gotten over the hump.”

That very much remains to be seen. If it’s truly the case, though, Agholor won’t have too many egregious drops like he had at Monday’s practice. Or, at the very least, he’ll be able to bounce back from the few he has.

“At the end of the day, stuff like that happens,” Agholor said. “It’s the game of football. I got behind defenses and caught that and scored also. So at the end of the day, that’s over with. Next play, line up and run by him again.”

“The game of football is for tough people, and I’m a tough person,” he later continued. “At the end of the day, I haven’t played the greatest football yet, but I want to continue to work hard to play my best football.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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