It’s been quite an interesting career for wide receiver Nelson Agholor. The former 1st round pick has certainly seen his share of ups and downs. There’s a good amount of good and a good amount of not so good. As a result, the sentiment toward him has always been divided amongst Eagles fans and the local media. Engaging in discussions about him has often led to heated debates, with each side claiming that their arguments carry more weight. But if you look at it objectively, neither side is necessarily wrong. That’s what makes the career of Nelson Agholor so intriguing.
We’re all aware of how abysmal Agholor’s first two seasons were. He had the expectations of replacing Jeremy Maclin as the team’s next #1 wide receiver thrust onto him from day one. Fair or not, he wasn’t able to live up to those expectations and couldn’t have been more of a disappointment. He dropped passes repeatedly, couldn’t get separation consistently, and didn’t look close to being a top receiver at the pro level. After two seasons, most fans were ready to cut bait.
But then it all clicked almost out of nowhere in 2017, as the explosive playmaker we expected him to be finally started to surface. A newfound confidence in himself and a positional shift over to the slot helped significantly. He had a career year with 62 catches, 768 receiving yards, and 8 receiving touchdowns. His drops decreased, and on several plays, he showcased remarkably soft hands. He even co-led all players in receptions in Super Bowl XLII with 9 (tied with Rob Gronkowski). He might not have had any touchdowns, but many of those catches came in clutch moments. He performed at a high level when the team needed him most.
The 2018 season for Agholor was a bit of a tough season to asses. It all depends on how you look at it. If you compare his numbers to the year prior, they’re almost identical aside from him having half as many touchdowns. But watching him week in and week out it just didn’t feel as though he was making as many impactful plays as he was in 2017. It could have been a case where the numbers were misleading. On the flip side though, it also could have been a case where the struggles of the team skewed our view on Agholor and made us think he was underperforming.
Heading into the 2019 season, Agholor was essentially the forgotten man in this offense. With Alshon Jeffery already on the team, the return of fan-favorite DeSean Jackson, and the selection of JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft, Agholor was considered expendable by many. Another factor that played into his questionable future was his contract. Since the team decided to exercise his team option, his cap hit for the season was set at just over $9 million. That figure is high when you consider his role on the team and the type of numbers he’s put up over the past 2 seasons.
As a result, Agholor’s name was constantly mentioned in trade rumors that were being thrown around. Whether the rumors had any truth to them, we may never know.
The fact that Agholor has remained on the team is another heavily debated topic. Some looked at it as a great thing because of the injuries that Jeffery and Jackson sustained in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons. With Agholor still in the lineup, the Eagles still had some sort of playmaker at wide receiver in their absence. Others, however, look at what has happened in the past 2 games and believe having Agholor as the top receiver left as a bad thing.
Agholor had two crucial drops against the Falcons. The first one came on a potential touchdown pass before the end of the first half. The ball was thrown high and he was also hit hard on the attempt, but it still was a pass that should have been caught. But what does he do in response? He catches a crucial touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter on 4th and 4 to help keep the Eagles in the game.
The second drop, though, was the heartbreaker. With just under 2 minutes left in the game and the Eagles down 4, Wentz spotted Agholor running free down the left sideline. He dropped a perfect pass right into Agholor’s hands, only for it to go right through and fall incomplete. If caught, there was a very good chance Agholor could have run it in for the go-ahead touchdown. It was a devastating error. But again, just as always, Agholor came back a few plays later on 4th and 14 and caught a 43-yard pass down the field to help keep the Eagles in the game. It was all for naught though as the Eagles were unable to come away with the comeback victory.
The #Eagles dialed up a couple of plays to attack the #Falcons zone coverage on the final drive with Nelson Agholor as the target. One hit and one didn't, but I love Agholor's resilience (and the entire team's, for that matter) to come back and make that second play #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/P7QxKvSDHQ
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) September 18, 2019
In Week 3 against the Detroit Lions, it was more of the same old story for Agholor. He had a bad drop in the 2nd quarter on 3rd and 6 that ended a drive. And even worse, he committed an inexplicable fumble towards the end of the second half as the offense was driving down the field. Once again, he did his best to make up for his mistakes in the second half. He had an electric catch and run touchdown in the 3rd quarter, and another crucial touchdown catch in the 4th quarter. But just like the week prior, the damage from his prior mistakes was too much for the team to overcome.
Nelson Agholor lost his mind [and grip on the football]pic.twitter.com/yZgrNiWBod
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 22, 2019
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 22, 2019
Neither of the Eagles’ losses in the past two weeks rest solely on the shoulders of Agholor. In truth, there are plenty of other players and coaches that have contributed to the early 2-game losing streak. But it is very difficult to overlook Agholor’s mishaps. The dropped pass late against the Falcons could have been the game-winning play, and his fumble before halftime against the Lions killed a lot of momentum and resulted in points for the opposing team. Those aren’t easy to forgive.
Something you do need to respect though is Agholor’s resiliency, and that goes for his whole career so far and not just these past 2 games. How many times has he been doubted because of his poor play? How many times has he come right back and made a huge play afterward to try and make up for it? How many people gave up on him after his first two seasons? How incredible was it to see him have the type of season he had after? Whether his good plays outweigh the bad ones or not, that persistence and ability to not beat himself up over it all is something you don’t see from many players. It’s not easy to do at all.
Another reason for the frustration from fans stems from the fact that Agholor was a 1st round pick but hasn’t lived up to the billing of being a 1st round talent. It’s highly imperative that teams hit on their 1st round picks, and when you look at the expectations that were put on him and the type of player he was projected to be, it’s reasonable to question if Agholor was a hit or a miss. But maybe him not being able to develop into a true WR1 isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. He’s contributed to this offense a good amount the past 2 seasons and has also remained healthy throughout that time. Take out the high expectations, and almost any team would be happy to have a player like Agholor in their offense.
The one thing about Agholor that can’t be debated is the type of character he possesses. He’s been a class act on and off the field and one of the hardest workers on the team since being drafted. The term “diva” is often used to describe a lot of wide receivers in today’s game, but Agholor doesn’t qualify as one of them. The way he’s carried himself deserves respect.
Thank you for being a hero in the community, would like to invite you and your family to the next home game
Twitter help me out and get me in touch with him https://t.co/uqML3eJ0QT
— Nelson Agholor (@nelsonagholor) September 24, 2019
The point of all this wasn’t to change your mind about how you feel about Agholor. By now, most fans are pretty decided on how they feel about the Eagles slot receiver. The truth is that it’s easy to hate him, but it’s also easy to love him. It all just depends on what angle you decide to look at him from. And if this turns out to be his final season in Philadelphia, the legacy he leaves behind will be an unforgettable one. Not many Eagles players in recent history can say that they’ve brought as much pain to this fanbase as they did joy. Hate it or love it, that’s who Nelson Agholor is.