Beyond Jordan Matthews, the Eagles’ wide receiver group in 2015 left a lot to be desired.
Among the ineffectiveness of Riley Cooper and Miles Austin, the disappointment from Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff and the drops from practically everyone, it wasn’t a good year for the position group.
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich hopes to see a big difference in 2016, but the key is unselfishness.
“One of the things you look for in a receiver group is unselfishness, because that’s the way you get better,” Reich said after practice Monday. “There’s only one ball, and there’s three or four guys going out for routes, so we want to be able to evaluate every play all the time, whether the ball’s coming to them or not.”
Reich said he’s noticed over the years that the evaluation of the group can accelerate when the players have an unselfish attitude and aren’t always begging for the ball.
For a team that dropped 7.8 percent of Sam Bradford’s passes last year, which was the highest rate in the league according to Pro Football Focus, it’s an issue the Eagles are going to have to correct this year. Reich was clear about his expectations there.
“As a coach, you don’t want any drops,” he said. “You want 100 percent catches…we expect perfection.”
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According to SportingCharts, Agholor had four drops last year on 44 targets, which was tied for the eighth highest drop rate among receivers with at least 40 targets. Despite the frustrating rookie season, Reich expects Agholor to bounce back in 2016.
He said the increased confidence going into his second season compared to his rookie year should be a big factor, noting he’s seen positive things from him in the limited film they have with pads on this training camp.
“He’s got a quickness off the line of scrimmage, he has some vertical speed that can challenge you and he just has very good footwork,” he said. “In this league, you have to be able 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.”
Reich added he’s seen flashes of Agholor’s skills from what he’s watched of last year’s film, which Sam Bradford corroborated.
“We’ve all seen Nelson’s physical abilities,” Bradford said. “He’s explosive, he’s got a lot of quickness. He separates at the line, he separates at the top. I’m sure you can ask anyone, I can imagine any time you’re a young player, it doesn’t matter what the position they’re playing, you’re still in that process where you’re thinking a lot.
“As he gets older, as he gets more experienced, as he sees more looks from defenses, I think a lot of that [thinking process] will probably be cut out, and he’ll go out and just naturally react to things.”
But while injuries and inefficiency were issues, it would be wrong to write him off already. Among the six wide receivers taken in the first round of the 2015 draft, Agholor’s rookie season (283 receiving yards, one touchdown) technically ranked third. Breshad Perriman and Kevin White missed the whole season due to injuries, and Phillip Dorsett had just 225 yards and one touchdown with the Colts.
Bottom line, Bradford isn’t worried.
“I think he’s shown some flashes and made some plays where I think he can really help us this year,” Bradford said.