With It Finally Counting, Nelson Agholor Legitimizes Offseason Reinvention in Season Opener


LANDOVER, Md. -- It didn't take long until we could all see a different Nelson Agholor.
Three minutes and 17 seconds, to be exact.
Agholor, the same guy who struggled so badly his first two NFL seasons, showed that his offseason reinvention was legit Sunday when he settled under a Carson Wentz deep ball on a broken play and caught the football naturally and easily, then ran the rest of the way into the end zone for a career-long 58-yard TD just 3:17 into the 2017 season.
Agholor finished with career highs of six catches and 86 yards in the Eagles' 30-17 season-opening win over the Redskins at FedEx Field (see breakdown).
"I think I did what I had to do for my teammates and this team," Agholor said.
"My focus each week is to help this team get a W and that's my mindset. Think my focus is on this team. I know where I belong on this team and my mindset is I'm here to help this team win football games and every day I practice for that and every game I play for that."
To put 86 yards in perspective, Agholor's previous career high was 67 yards. His first two years in the league, the former first-round pick averaged 23 yards per game.
Things got so bad last year head coach Doug Pederson benched him for a game after he went public with his confidence issues.
It's only one game, but it sure seems like a different Nelson Agholor.
"I think going forward, his confidence level - and really I've seen it all spring and all summer - it's right where I expected him to be, and he just carried it over into the game today," Pederson said.
"He made some great plays, some good third-down plays today, and kept us on the field. For him, this was a great first step to being the type of receiver that we know he can be and will be for us and the reason why (then-GM Chip Kelly) drafted him so high."
Agholor's 58-yard touchdown was longer than any TD catch by any Eagles wide receiver last year.
"It's cool," he said. "But it comes in with a team victory and that's the most important thing.
"My focus is about giving all I can to help us win games and those type of plays put us in position to win games, so we need more of those because the more of those we have the better opportunity this team has to be undefeated and to win games."
Interesting that after the ballyhooed signings of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, it was Agholor who had the breakout game Sunday (see 10 observations).
You have to give the kid a ton of credit for battling through some very serious - and very public - mental health issues a year ago and coming out on the other side.
"I think it's big for him, but honestly going back to the offseason, I just saw a more confident player," Wentz said. "I saw he was working, and we were always talking about what he could do differently, different things.
"You just kind of see a new, confident player, and starting the season off the way he did today was huge for him."
Maybe the biggest number for Agholor on Sunday was zero. As in drops.
Agholor even made a circus catch down near the goal line, lunging for an overthrown pass, batting it in the air, and reeling it in for a five-yard gain and a 1st-and-goal at the 3. Three plays later, they scored.
"My focus is on getting better every day," he said. "I'm happy and I'm blessed. My confidence is great because I'm blessed … every day I get the opportunity to play this wonderful game.
"Today was a great opportunity to perform on the stage after all the hard work me and my teammates put it since spring. But we're not finished."
What about last year? What about everything he's overcome? Agholor was asked if he feels vindicated and he just shrugged the question off like a gnat.
"It is what it is," he said. "I don't really want to think of any of those things. I just want to focus on being me and focus on being Nelson and enjoy Nelson working hard.
"I'm part of a great wide receiver corps that works hard every day and any day it could be somebody's night, but you've got to give it up for your brothers and make a play when the ball comes to you."
Agholor said this is the most fun he's had playing football.
"Easily," he said. "I just have fun because winning is fun and I focus on doing everything I can to help us win."

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