CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is finally catching on as one of the team’s top playmakers.
The 6-foot, 198-pounder entered Thursday’s game against Carolina at Bank of America Stadium with a team-high three touchdowns. Agholor also led the Eagles in yards per catch (16.6) with 16 receptions for 266 yards.
“I’m having a whole lot of fun right now,” Agholor said this week. “I’m really enjoying the game of football.”
He showed it Sunday against Arizona.
Just before crossing the goal line to complete a 72-yard touchdown, Agholor turned around, spread his arms and did a version of the Nestea plunge into the end zone.
“That was a huge play,” tight end Zach Ertz said. “It just shows how far he has come in the last couple of years. We are really happy with where he’s at, his growth this whole year.”
It’s been quite a turnaround from last year.
Agholor, 24, hit his low point during a 26-15 loss at Seattle on Nov. 20, 2016. Ertz’s 57-yard TD on a screen pass from Carson Wentz was nullified by an illegal motion penalty on Agholor. Wentz threw pass in his direction on the next play, but he dropped it.
Agholor’s confidence and focus were shattered to the point thathe was deactivated the next week against Green Bay. Agholor wound up visiting with a sports psychologist and had a heart-to-heart talk with coach Doug Pederson.
The Eagles’ 2015 first-round draft pick came to training camp this season determined to shed the “bust” tag that had been applied to him by frustrated fans.
He was among the most impressive players during camp and proved it wasn’t a fluke by catching six passes for 86 yards and a TD in a 30-17 win at Washington on Sept. 10.
“The biggest reason for his improvement is confidence,” Pederson said. “I think it’s me believing in him, the coaching staff on offense believing in him, and the players around him believing in him. I see this kid every single day, and nothing gets him down. He works extremely hard, and he’s playing at a very high level right now.”
Part of the improvement could also be due to having less pressure.
In 2015-16, Agholor had to deal with the lofty expectations that come with being a first-round pick. He was the No. 20 overall choice in the draft by then-Eagles coach Chip Kelly following a standout career at the University of Southern California.
This season, the Eagles upgraded their wide receivers by signing Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith during free agency. After Jordan Matthews was traded to Buffalo, Agholor was moved into the slot, where he has flourished.
The wide receivers are a tight-knit group.
When Smith scored a 59-yard TD against the Cardinals, they all gathered in the end zone for a choreographed celebration. Smith took a baseball hitter’s stance while Agholor pretended to be a pitcher and Jeffrey served as the catcher. Smith swatted an imaginary home run.
“We said before the game that for every big touchdown we want to do our little deal like a home run and knock it out of the park,” Agholor said. “I’m just enjoying going out there and having fun with my teammates.”