Tag Archives: Nelson Agholor

Catch the Damn Ball: Eagles Receivers Not Making the Grade

6 Nov
jordan-matthewsandcarsonwentz

Eagles wide receiver and Carson Wentz shake hands after they connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the Birds 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Week 3. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Last Sunday ’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys shows how badly the Philadelphia Eagles need a quality wide receiver.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Throughout Organized Team Activities and training camp, Doug Pederson was often asked about whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles would get a game-breaking wide receiver.

Pederson’s response was to say that wide receivers were going to make big plays through the Eagles scheme and then he went and added Dorial Green-Beckham in hopes that he would be that guy to stretch the field.

Seven games into the season, we are still talking about dropped passes and a lack of separation. There was talk this week that the Birds were looking for a wide receiver before Tuesday’s trade deadline, with San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith being the biggest name mentioned in possible trade talks.

Although it would be more excusable if it were, the problem with the Eagles’ passing game isn’t quarterback Carson Wentz. The rookie signal caller had an efficient game in Sunday’s 29-23 overtime loss to Dallas.

The problem is that the Birds receivers scare no one going deep. When the scariest receiver in your passing game is running back Darren Sproles, you have a problem that’s going to keep you out of the playoffs. In the last four games, the Eagles have had just one play beyond 30 yards. In fact, the team’s wideouts have made only two catches beyond 30 yards.

Were it not for a 73-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Sproles on what turned out to be a broken play, the passing game would look even worse than it already does. Jordan Matthews, the team’s best wide receiver, is a go-to guy in the red zone and a solid possession receiver, but he’s not going to flip field position on one play for you, something the Eagles really need right now.

While doing it may make fans crazy, Pederson said that the old “dink and dunk” passes down field can work.

“Yeah, we went 9-0 in Kansas City and didn’t do it,” Pederson said. “I’ve seen it done. You can do that. It’s just we have to figure out and find ways to get the ball, obviously, down the field. You have to trust protection, you have to trust reads and progressions and you’ve got to trust the guys to get down the field.”

I guess that’s a politically correct answer to give to reporters during a press conference to mask an obvious weakness in your passing game. But let’s be honest here. In the games that the Eagles lost to their NFC East rivals—the Cowboys and the Washington Redskins— big play receivers Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson made, well, big plays.

And most importantly, they caught the ball. That’s another problem that the Eagles receivers seem to be having right now. When it comes to dropped passes, the Eagles are among the worst teams in the NFL. In fact, the website ChartingSports.com puts them at the top of the league in dropped balls when you measure the ratio of targets to balls dropped.

One of the most glaring examples of this during Sunday’s game was when wide receiver Nelson Agholor mishandled a ball that could have converted a third down deep in Cowboys territory on the Eagles first possession of the game.

While he wasn’t the only one dropping balls, Agholor was the only one getting testy with reporters when asked about it.

Now I understand why Agholor, the number one pick in the Eagles 2015 draft, might be tired of this particular topic coming up.

But if you want us to stop asking you about dropped passes, you could, I don’t know, Stop. Dropping. Passes.

If Agholor spent as much time living up the hype that a number one draft pick is supposed to generate as he does ranting at reporters asking him why he can’t seem to do the job he was drafted to do, which is to get open and catch the ball, he might get a little further along.

You would think the Eagles would have learned something from the NFC title games the team lost during the Donovan McNabb Era. During that time, the Eagles had a group of wide receivers similar to the crop the team has now: serviceable guys who scared no one.

Once Terrell Owens came to the Eagles, however, the team had a deep threat that the league had to respect. They won the NFC Championship, and while they didn’t win the Super Bowl, at least they went.

So while Pederson can dress it up anyway he likes, his current crop of mediocre receivers has made things a lot easier for defensive coordinators.

And until the team does something about that, they’ll be watching the Super Bowl from the living room like the rest of us.

Eagles Rookie Wide Receiver Nelson Agholor Getting Rave Reviews After Preseason Debut

19 Aug

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report 

and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass.  Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass. Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Although he has yet to play a regular season game in the National Football League , Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor has impressed his coaches and his teammates with his work ethic, his speed and his ability to catch the football throughout organized team activities in the spring and training camp in August.

“You talk about going straight forward, that boy Nelson just goes from zero to 100,” said teammate and fellow wide receiver Jordan Matthews. “I’ve just seen it day in and day out. They talk about explosive efforts every day in practice, that cat has them. You turn on the film; he’s out on every single catch.”

As the Birds first round draft choice, Agholor has a lot of work ahead of him and is going to go through the ups and downs of being a rookie. That said, the former University of Southern California star gave Eagles fans a glimpse of the upside of his potential.

In the Eagles 36-10 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, Agholor caught five passes for 57 yards including a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that thrilled the Eagles faithful at Lincoln Financial Field.

On his touchdown, Agholor hauled in a short, overthrown hitch pass from Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and just sped past defenders for a touchdown.

“When I caught the ball and I wanted to finish,” Agholor said. “Every day in practice we try to finish to two lines and that was the objective and I wanted to turn it into more.”

If there’s one thing that has stood out about Agholor from the time he was drafted to his first preseason game on Sunday, it’s that he  doesn’t go around tooting his own horn, at least not yet.  He’s the first to acknowledge his own mistakes. He had a couple of drops that cost the Eagles a couple of third down conversions.

“I need to work on just finding the ball and not looking at who’s throwing the ball,” Agholor said.  “I think my eyes went to the quarterback.  At the end of the day, I like the fact that it happened today.  It’s a good thing to learn from.”

During his career at USC, the 6’1”, 190-pound Agholor played in a variety spots at the wide receiver position at both the slot and as an outside receiver.   He put up numbers no matter where he played, especially in his final season with the Trojans. Agholor caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said the thing he liked about Agholor when he was at USC was his ability to run after the catch.  The touchdown that Agholor scored Sunday against the Colts was a classic example of why the Eagles drafted him.

“Yeah, I mean the one thing with Nelson is when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s real explosive,” Kelly said.  “So, you’re anticipating run after the catch with him.  He did that a ton in college.”

Agholor is also showing that as a rookie that’s important for him to be a student of the game and that each situation, whether it’s practice, the film room or a live game, every situation is an opportunity for him to make his game better.

“That’s what you do every day on the practice field, too,” Agholor said. “You have meetings that carry over from previous days; you just go out there and perform what you’re coached up to do. And that’s all (Sunday) was.  It was an extended practice for a lot of us.”

If Agholor wins the starter’s job as a starting wide receiver, the Birds are going to have a pretty decent group of receiver when you throw Matthews, Miles Austin, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper into the mix.

Eagles 2015 Training Camp Preview: Several Unanswered Questions

2 Aug

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –With the Phillies playing out a bad season, sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love are now focused on the only team that has a chance to have a winning season and make a run to the postseason.

As Philadelphia Eagles training camp approaches, fans have a lot to be excited about and also a lot of reasons to be concerned. The Birds situation is arguably better than that of the city’s other three teams because despite all of the changes, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that Eagles fans have to feel good about is that DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, will be their starting running back. They will also have good change of pace backs in Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a whole lot of question marks on the offense. After cutting offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the Birds are hoping that Allen Barbre (6-4, 310 pounds), likely the new left guard, and Matt Tobin (6-6, 290), whose expected to win the starting job at right guard, will be upgrades at these positions.

The team also signed John Moffitt (6-4, 319) last month. Moffitt, who took a year away from football to deal with substance abuse issues, gives Eagles some much need depth along the offensive line in case someone gets hurt. The way things have gone for the Eagles in terms of injuries last year that might be important. Dennis Kelly (6-8, 321), Andrew Gardner (6-6, 308) and Kevin Graf (6-6, 309) also have to be ready to go are among the guys that need to be ready even if you have injuries to the starters.

Having a solid offensive line is crucial because the Eagles have to protect starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played a full season since 2012. If he can survive the season, fans will definitely be optimistic. But if Bradford gets hurt, can head coach Chip Kelly or the fan base stomach the idea of the mistake-prone Mark Sanchez running the Eagles offense for a sustained period of time?

Among the Eagles wide receiver corps, will second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews become the go-to-guy in the passing game? Will rookie Nelson Agholor, with his 4.4 speed, be able to find his way on the field and be an important part of the Eagles passing game? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On defense, the Eagles will have a solid front-seven that includes linebackers DeMeco Ryans and newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. This could also be a breakout season for defensive end Fletcher Cox, who is coming off a 2014 season in which he had a career-high in tackles with 70 (59 solo) and four sacks.

The sticking point for the Eagles defense coming into the 2015 season is the secondary, which got torched quite often late in the season. The inability of the Birds secondary to keep opposing receivers from piling up yards and lighting up the scoreboard kept them out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

The Eagles ranked 31st in net passing yards per game in 2014 and the most touchdowns of 20 yards or more and the only holdover from that unit is safety Malcolm Jenkins.

The Birds got former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played well during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. But there’s uncertainty about Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe, the other two guys vying for cornerback spots. Carroll is a pro that couldn’t get much playing time in the other places he’s played and Rowe is a second-round draft pick who hasn’t played a down as a pro.

Meanwhile at the other safety spot, Kelly is counting on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Thurmond is a converted cornerback who has never played at the safety spot and has been injury-prone throughout his five-year career.

If the Eagles fail to shore up this part of their defense, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant could be licking their chops.

Eagles Training Camp 2015: Who Will be the Birds Next Go-to Receiver?

25 Jul

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles wide receiver  Jordan Matthews had a big game as a rookie against Washington last season. The former Vanderbilt star caught two touchdown passes. Will he be the go-to guy in 2015? Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews had a big game as a rookie against Washington last season. The former Vanderbilt star caught two touchdown passes. Will he be the go-to guy in 2015? Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When Jeremy Maclin, the Philadelphia Eagles best receiver in 2014, signed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, Birds fans have been wondering who’s going to be the guy that replaces his numbers in the offense.
That will be one of the things to watch when Eagles training camp opens on August 1 at the team’s NovaCare facility in South Philadelphia.

Last season, Maclin had 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns, not bad for a guy who didn’t have the game-breaking speed of a DeSean Jackson.

The best returning receiver on the Eagles right now is second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who had a solid rookie season. Last season, the former Vanderbilt star caught 67 passes for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. Matthews was the Eagles second-leading receiver in 2014.

At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, Matthews picked up most of his catches from playing inside the slot where he used to his height to his advantage. Throughout minicamp, he was still lining up at the slot. But I think he has the ability to play on the outside as well.

Matthews said it doesn’t matter where they line him up, he’ll go out and do his job.

“Of course, I’m getting some reps out there, but it’s still receiver,” Matthews said during the Eagles spring organized team activities. “Our offense is so dynamic that you can’t put too much weight on who’s outside or who’s inside…who’s No. 1 or No. 2. I think that’s stuff is really irrelevant.

”We have a dynamic offense. We have a lot of weapons, I’m getting some outside work, but we’re trying to put a product on the field that’s going to win.”

While not necessarily that homerun hitter on the deep ball, Matthews can be that go-to receiver in third down situations, something the Eagles haven’t had since Terrell Owens. Not to suggest that Matthews is on par with Owens when he was in his prime just yet, but I can see him lining up in the slot or on the outside.

Meanwhile, the guy that could fill the role of a deep threat is rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor. While the former USC star has yet to catch a pass in an NFL game, the Eagles No. 1 draft choice does come with some impressive collegiate credentials.

The 6-1, 190-pound Agholor ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, which is by no means slow. During his final year at USC, Agholor caught 104 passes, 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 101 yards per game. He can go deep and he can run solid routes.

Like Matthews, Agholor can run routes from the slot or from the outside receiver spots as did during his days at USC. During his freshman year at USC, Agholor was averaging a over 17 yards per catch, but during his final year with the Trojans he averaged a little over 12 yards per catch.

“During my freshman and sophomore year my yards per catch were great,” Agholor said. “All I wanted to do was move the chains and play the game right way.”

Everyone in the Eagles receiving corps—young or old will definitely learn from the wisdom of former Dallas Cowboys/ Cleveland Browns wide receiver Miles Austin.

In Cleveland last season, Austin played for a Browns squad that had instability at the quarterback spot, yet still managed to catch 47 passes for 568 yards with two touchdowns.

Second-year wide receiver Josh Huff, who showed brilliant flashes of brilliance as a kick returner, is also looking to get some reps in the passing the game. Huff has the speed to move all over the place and he’s a good blocker in the run game.

The odd man out among the veterans in this offense is Riley Cooper. Last season, Cooper did not have a good year, Cooper who saw his numbers drop in receiving yardage, average yards per catch and touchdowns.If Huff or one of the younger players has an outstanding camp, Cooper may not survive the summer.

Birds Add Depth at Key Positions, But Not A Super Bowl Contender Just Yet

12 May
Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Second-Round Draft Choice Eric Rowe has the ability to play corner and safety for the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

Eagles top draft choice Nelson Agholor hopes to make a big impact in his rookie season with the Birds.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—So now that the Philadelphia Eagles have made their picks in 2015 NFL Draft, the question fans are asking themselves is if the team is better now than it was before head coach Chip Kelly made some highly publicized moves to make over the team in his image.

To be honest, I don’t think so at this point. There are too many unanswered questions on both sides of the ball to drink the “Philadelphia Eagles are a Super Bowl Contender” Kool-Aid at this point.

Let’s look at the draft picks.

Former University of Southern California star Nelson Agholor, the wide receiver the Eagles picked at number oneis almost a clone of the wide receiver Kelly let go to the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeremy Maclin.

At 6-foot, 190 pounds, he is almost the same as Maclin from a physical standpointAgholor is also a speedy wide out with a reputation running good routes and being a deep threat. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I have the ability to compete and do things I need to do to get open and in blocking,” Agholor said. “I’d like to go where I can help the team and manipulate the coverage.”

Agholor will join a receiving corps that will include veteran Miles Austin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff.  It’s a decent group of pass-catchers—Matthews is coming off a pretty good rookie season with 67 receptions for 872 yards and eight touchdowns.

At the same, it’s not a crew that strikes fear into anyone. While Kelly thinks that Agholor can stretch opposing defenses, he’s not going to make anyone forget that DeSean Jackson is no longer in Eagles Green.

“I think he’s got good linear speed that can get down the field and I think people will have to be leery about that,” Kelly said. “He’s got excellent speed, outstanding hands, catches the ball away from his body. Outstanding route runner, real student of the game.”

But the real issue for the Birds is at quarterback. In Sam Bradford, the team has a couple of question mark: Can he learn the system, and can he stay off of Injured Reserve for 16 weeks? That last one is something he hasn’t done since 2012, although he’s saying that he’ll be ready for training camp, meaning that he’ll be healed from his most recent ACL repair. The one edge that he does have is that he ran a similar spread-option offense at Oklahoma.  

Kelly believes that Bradford’s ability to make quick decisions make him an ideal fit for the Eagles fast-paced no-huddle offense. The burden won’t be all on Bradford with running back DeMarco Murray in the Eagles backfield.

But the Birds are a bit shaky on the offensive line.  They got rid of Todd Herremans and have been trying to move guard Evan MathisThe offensive line could be the difference between the Eagles making the playoffs and having to watch from home, especially since the line will not only be protecting a quarterback with a newly repaired knee, but making holes for a running back that has his own fragility issues.

On the defensive side of the football, the draft enabled the Eagles to have some depth in the secondary.  In the second round, the Eagles drafted Utah defensive back Eric Rowe.   At 6-1, 205 pounds, Rowe has the kind of versatility that Kelly likes for his defense, similar to safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has also played cornerback and safety.

Rowe said he studies film of NFL stars like New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and Cleveland’s Joe Haden.

I love to hit, I love to come on the blitz and tackle,” Rowe said. “On the press man, l love to take charges on the line of scrimmage. I would say I’m an aggressive corner.”

Prior to his senior year, Rowe played 36 games at the safety position. He played cornerback in his final season with the Utes and had 13 passes defended with one interception. Rowe runs a 4.4 40-yard dash so he has the speed to keep up opposing receivers.

“We’re looking for safeties that can cover and this kid has actually played corner so he’s got those skills,” Kelly said. “He’s a taller and longer guy, so you hope those are things, but we’ll get him in here and look at everything he can do. The fact that he’s got that many starts under his belt at safety but then really excelled at corner this last year is very intriguing to us.”

The Birds further bolstered their defense in the third round by drafting former University of Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had 147 tackles during his senior year. In the sixth round, the Birds picked up two more defensive backs in cornerbacks former Kansas star JaCorey Shepherd and Kansas State’s Randall Evans, who also has played both safety and corner.  

The Eagles closed out the draft with seventh round pick with Boston College defensive end Brian Mihalik, who 4.5 sacks during his senior year.

For the Birds to even be consider a Super Bowl contender, the defense, which gave up 30 touchdown passes last season, has nowhere to go but up.  It also has to stay healthy. Newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alsonso and DeMeco Ryans have to show that they are 100 percent ready to go.  

The rookies on both sides of the ball have to grow up quick because they’re not going to have too much margin for error.