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November 21, 2016

Focusing on Agholor’s struggles takes away from Eagles’ larger talent problem

Eagles NFL

In the aftermath of the Eagles’ convincing loss at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the target of the fan base’s frustration has unequivocally been wide receiver Nelson Agholor. And this is understandable, as Agholor’s illegal formation brain fart and dropped pass cost the Birds over 100 yards of offense in the first half.

On Sunday, Agholor graduated from dropping balls and an inability to get open to not being able to line up in the first place. I mean, this is pretty basic stuff:

Throughout his one and a half seasons in Philly, Agholor hasn’t ever really hopped off the struggle bus. Bluntly, it just doesn’t feel like the former first-round pick can do anything right. But as Jimmy wrote earlier in the week, Nelly likely isn’t going anywhere because he was a first-round pick and also received the contract of a first-round pick. There is a lesson here: Don’t whiff at the top of the draft, kids.

If Agholor lines up a couple of inches forward and Zach Ertz’s long reception stands, it’s true that we could have been looking at a different ballgame at 14-13 in the second quarter. But narrowing the focus to only Agholor slightly covers up the fact that the Eagles were thoroughly outplayed in Seattle.

For example, as the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski writes, Jim Schwartz’s defense wasn’t nearly as good as it needed to be against a below-average Seahawks offensive line:

For all of Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman's assertions that Wentz's presence and growth will give the Eagles a head start in the annual race for the Lombardi Trophy, Sunday was a reminder of just how far this franchise has to go yet. Forget a game-breaking wide receiver or shutdown cornerbacks. Those seem luxuries now. Wentz will need a defense that, over a 92-yard touchdown drive, doesn't commit three penalties and allow an opposing offense to convert first downs in second-and-20 and third-and-16 situations. The Eagles defense did that in the second quarter, on its way to surrendering an average of seven yards per play to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense.

Russell Wilson isn’t half-bad either, and his weapons are top-notch compared to Carson Wentz’s. It wasn’t a fair fight.

As frustrating as a loss can be in the moment, not many people predicted that the Eagles would leave Seattle with a W. The Seahawks are a more complete team, built mostly through great drafting. The Eagles have their fair share of high-profile misses in recent drafts, and last year almost all of the resources were spent in order to get Wentz.

That move still looks pretty good (even after acknowledging Wentz struggled yesterday), but it’s also how a seventh-round pick like Jalen Mills gets thrown into the fire right away. From the Daily News’ David Murphy:

This might have been a learning experience, but the lesson was mostly this: The Eagles do not have the talent necessary to win these kinds of games, and the Seahawks do. The Eagles did not have matchups they could exploit, and the Seahawks did. It seems pretty simple when you watch it in action. Seattle knew that the quickness it possessed at the wide-receiver position could pose some problems for Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, whose recovery speed is not among the reasons that he is starting as a rookie.

Starting next year, Howie Roseman has the chance to replace Agholor and find his young quarterback some legitimate weapons. Contrary to popular belief, there is still a roadmap to the playoffs for the Eagles. But if they want to compete in a place like Seattle, against one of the NFL’s elite teams, the Eagles probably need at least another offseason retool the roster, maybe two.

Good news (well, bad news): The Birds will get another chance at a measuring game quickly, as they’ll be back in the Pacific Northwest next year.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann