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August 02, 2016

Can Nelson Agholor make the second-year jump at wide receiver?

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Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor had a very forgettable rookie season after being selected 20th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. This time last year, there were some (self included) who thought Agholor could contend for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. 

Oops. Agholor played in 13 games (starting 12), and produced just 23 catches for 283 yards and 1 TD.

Agholor's rookie season was a clear disappointment, however, there are some who feel that Agholor can make a jump in his second year as a pro. That is based primarily on the fact that most wide receivers are better in their second year in the NFL than they are in their first. #Analysis. 

Still, while obvious, the point is worth noting. For example, the top 10 receivers (yardage-wise) in the NFL last season were Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson.

If you look at their careers, all 10 had better seasons in their second year in the NFL than they did as rookies. A look at each of those 10 receivers, and their first two seasons in the league:

Julio Jones Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201154 959 17.8 
 201279 1198 15.2 10 

Antonio Brown Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201016 167 10.4 
 201169 1108 16.1 

 DeAndre HopkinsRec Yards YPC TD 
 201352 802 15.4 
 201476 1210 15.9 

 Brandon MarshallRec Yards YPC TD 
 200620 309 15.5 
 2007102 1325 13.0 

Odell Beckham Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201491 1305 14.3 12 
 201596 1450 15.1 13 

Allen Robinson Rec Yards YPC TD 
201448 548 11.4 
201580 1400 17.5 14 

 Demaryius ThomasRec Yards YPC TD 
 201022 283 12.9 
 201132 551 17.2 

A.J. Green Rec Yards YPC TD 
 201165 1057 16.3 
 201297 1350 13.9 11 

Larry Fitzgerald Rec Yards YPC TD 
 200458 780 13.4 
 2005103 1409 13.7 10 

Calvin Johnson Rec Yards YPC TD 
 200748 756 15.8 
 200878 1331 17.1 12 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich thinks Agholor is going in that direction.

"I think there is something to that," said Reich. "You see that in receivers, and I think a lot of that is just a confidence and the game slows down. Those two go hand in hand. So, we've said it all offseason that that's our expectation of Nelson. One thing that does pop up on the film, even just in a couple practices here with the pads on, he's got a quickness off the line of scrimmage, he has some vertical speed to challenge it deep, and he just has very good footwork. In this league, you have to be able to beat press coverage. You have to, have to, have to beat press coverage. And he has a natural ability to get off the line versus press, and he's got to be able to use that to his advantage to help our team."

Agholor has talent. There were certainly glimpses of it in the preseason a year ago, as well as in the final meaningless game in the Meadowlands against the Giants. Look at the burst here:

Coming out of high school, Agholor was Rivals.com's 18th-highest rated recruit in the nation. His freshman season at USC, he produced just 19 catches for 340 yards and 2 TDs. In his sophomore season, he had 56 catches for 918 yards and 6 TDs. It wasn't until his junior season that Agholor broke out with a season in which he caught 104 passes for 1313 yards and 12 TDs. In his last seven games (#LastSevenGames) that season, he had 62 catches for 908 yards and 8 TDs.

In other words, maybe Agholor is a player who just needs some time to adapt to new surroundings before he'll realize his potential? That's certainly a more optimistic view than, "He's just not good."

"I mean, I did watch most of the film from last year," Reich continued. "I will say this, the film that I saw last year I saw flashes of it. So, we come in and I said, ‘This guy can beat press coverage. He can get off the line of scrimmage versus press coverage.’ So, I didn't really get into evaluating their scheme and what they were trying to do a whole lot, but you could see flashes of it. And a lot of times when you’re in that tempo offense that they were in you don't get quite as much press coverage, they play a little softer just trying to get lined up because they were going so fast. I would anticipate he'll have more opportunities to do that this year."

To be clear, we're not comparing Agholor to the outstanding receivers noted above. They're only there to show the jump from Year 1 to Year 2. Agholor has not yet shown he should be compared with them yet, and the reality is that he has yet to stand out so far during the first week of training camp.

The difference between Agholor and the receivers above is that he must make more than just a modest jump in his second year, seeing as he put up the low numbers he did despite starting 12 games as a rookie. There isn't much room to go down, frankly, but there should be some level of optimism that he'll be better in 2016.


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