‘In a Better Place,' Nelson Agholor Has Chance to Show Progress in Green Bay

Last time the Eagles faced the Packers, Nelson Agholor wasn't even in uniform.

It was late last November, and Agholor was struggling so badly - seven yards in his previous two games, just 83 in his last five - that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson benched him when the Eagles faced the Packers at the Linc.

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It was quite a blow for the former first-round pick, who had been a starter for two years.

"I respect the decision that Doug made," Agholor says now. "At the end of the day, Doug wants what's best for the team and myself and I appreciate whatever comes at me. Things like that happen and they make me hungrier."

Agholor didn't exactly finish strong - nine catches for 101 yards and a TD the final five weeks of the season. But the Nelson Agholor that will face the Packers Thursday night in the Eagles' preseason opener at Lambeau Field sure seems like a different guy.

"I think I have a good feel for my body and my awareness of the game right now," he said after practice Monday in the bubble. "I think I'm in a better place today than I was a year ago."

Agholor, now in his third year, has enjoyed a very good preseason, and one of the most intriguing questions facing the Eagles this summer is whether he can transfer that progress onto the football field on game day.

Thursday night is the first small step in that process.

"I've been building good habits and that's what's going to carry me come Thursday," he said. "The habits I've already built. My technique, my understanding and my speed for the game. That's what I want to show Thursday and let the plays come from that."

If Agholor can become a significant contributor to this team - still a big if - it will mark one of the greatest transformations in Eagles history.

Through two seasons, Agholor has only 59 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns. But he's won over a lot of people inside and outside the organization with his unflinching work ethic, positive attitude and accountability.

"I really do think Nelson has gotten over the hump and had a great spring and a great training camp," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said.

"He's just making a ton of plays out there. I mean, we're always going to have a miss or two. Every position does. But we're very pleased with how he's playing.

"You know when he's on the field. I think the defense knows when he's on the field. He's been a threat."

But this is also likely Agholor's last chance. Because of his salary situation - it would cost the Eagles $2 million more under the cap to release him than keep him - he was essentially guaranteed one last chance.

That seems like a lot of pressure, but Agholor shrugs it off.
 
"I don't feel pressure," he said. "It's my job. My job is to focus. I'm hard on myself already. I like to be perfect.

"That's the thing about me. A lot of people want me to perfect also, but I want to be perfect. I want to be 10-for-10 in the game, catch 10 balls, no drops, that's great. But things happen and it's about bouncing back and responding. I can't let one play stop me because the next play that I catch might be the game-winner. That's my mindset.

"I've dwelled on it too long. Now I'm trying to make sure that I continue to have that next-play mentality. Because I know I'm a good receiver and I think I have great hands and when the ball comes my way, I'm going to pluck it."

How did Agholor get to this point?

He still hasn't done it on Sunday afternoons, but he legitimately does look like a different guy this summer.

"Preparation and hard work, man," he said. "It breeds results. The harder you work and the more prepared you are, (the more) you're able to play fast and you're able to get good results. I'm really excited about that and I want to continue to have those habits continue to carry me throughout the season."

Just about everybody agrees that the change in position coaches - from Greg Lewis to Mike Groh - has helped all the receivers but in particular Agholor, who always had the tools to be a good player but never could put it all together.

"Groh's always just been about wanting me to be a special player because he sees that in me," Agholor said. "So every day he coaches me hard and he expects nothing but greatness from me. I respect that from me so I try to respond every day.

"The game of football's tough, but it's for tough people and I'm a tough person. I haven't played the greatest football yet but I want to continue to work hard to play my best football. That's my mindset.

"It's just about playing fast and making plays and being prepared, and this offseason the only thing on my mind was hard work. Just work hard every day and I'm not stopping now. I started something and I'm going to finish it."

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