Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

Eagles WRs coach still thinks Nelson Agholor has 1st-round talent

New Eagles receivers coach Mike Groh has known about Nelson Agholor for over half a decade. 

Groh was the receivers coach at Alabama from 2011-12, the exact time Agholor, a five-star prospect out of Tampa, Florida, was making his college decision. Agholor went to USC and ended up being a first-round pick a few years later. 

What did Groh think of Agholor back then? 

"Well, we recruited him at Alabama," Groh said Friday, breaking into a smile. "We thought he was pretty good. And still think that."

Groh, 45, was hired this offseason to replace former wideouts coach Greg Lewis, the only casualty from Doug Pederson's first staff. Perhaps part of the reason Lewis was let go was that the young receivers in the building — Agholor included — failed to improve throughout the 2016 season. 

From the time Agholor was drafted by the Eagles with the 20th pick in 2015, the USC product has been a disappointment. Thrust into a starting role, Agholor simply hasn't lived up to his draft status and last year things got so bad, Pederson was forced to give him a mental health game day during the season.

Groh wasn't here for any of that. He was with the Bears in 2015 and with the Rams in 2016. All he knows of Agholor as a pro is the tape he's watched from last season and from seeing Agholor on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp this spring. 

"Nelson Agholor is a first-round pick and has first-round talent," Groh said. 

This spring, Agholor has actually shown it. 

Now, every Agholor story that has come out of spring practices has been and should be met with a great level of apprehension. Until Agholor actually shows he can perform in a game, skepticism is just. 

But all Groh can go on is what he's seen this spring. And what he's seen has been pretty darn good. 

"I've been really pleased with the spring that he had," Groh said. "He had a really productive spring. He attacked the spring. He's shown up and made an impact at virtually every practice. Really excited about where he's at right now."

Agholor, 24, was the standout star of this year's spring practices. And after Jordan Matthews was forced out of practice with a knee injury, Agholor took over in the slot and impressed even more. Groh really likes Agholor's versatility, saying it makes him valuable in the Eagles' offense. 

With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and Jordan Matthews on the team, Agholor seems destined to fill a backup role this season, which might be better for him — a chance to develop without the bright lights a starting job brings with it. That spotlight really got to Agholor last year and his confidence was clearly shaken. 

"I think confidence is a result of demonstrative performance," Groh said. "The more positive results he has in practice, I think that will elevate his confidence. He's had a really good spring from that standpoint."

From the time Groh arrived, he's been working on the basics with Agholor, although he mentioned that not specific to the former first-rounder. Agholor spent his spring tracking his drops during OTAs, a practice that is uniquely Nelson Agholor, concerned — perhaps overly — about the details. 

The Eagles hope it works. They hope Groh is the guy to help get some return out of their former first-round pick. 

On Friday, Groh echoed something he used to hear from coaching great Bill Parcells: "By the third year, a guy ought to tell you who he's going to be at this level." 

The clock is ticking. This season will be Year 3 for Agholor. 

Fantasy or reality? Fantasy football projections for 2017 Eagles

Fantasy or reality? Fantasy football projections for 2017 Eagles

As each day passes, we are not only one day closer to the beginning of the NFL season but also one day closer to your fantasy football draft. 

With some new weapons on offense, will Eagles like Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount help you to a championship?

Mike Clay, a fantasy football expert for ESPN who is known for making player and record projections, posted his estimations for the Eagles in 2017 on Twitter. The document gives you a good idea of what one of the industry leaders in fantasy football expects from the Eagles this season.

The 4,260 yards Clay projects for Wentz would easily break Donovan McNabb’s franchise record for passing yards in a season and the 1,049 receiving yards would make Jeffery well worth the investment the team made in him in the offseason. 

If you’re expecting a surprise season from Nelson Agholor, however, maybe you should look away. Clay predicts just four catches and 52 yards for the much-maligned wide receiver.

In addition to some solid individual numbers, Clay’s prediction of 8.8 victories is ahead of what he projects for the Dallas Cowboys (8.6) as the best total in the NFC East.

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Carson Wentz on the money all day

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Carson Wentz on the money all day

After Wednesday's practice, the Eagles have just one day left until their long break heading into training camp.

In that extended break, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said he will have some skill position players up in his home state of North Dakota for some working out and bonding time.

If nothing else, it will be a little relief from the heat.

Wednesday was another hot one in South Philly, but at least some relative cloud cover made it manageable.

Here are 10 observations from practice:

1. Speaking of Wentz, he had his best day (of the days reporters have been able to watch) this spring. At times over the last few weeks, he has been up and down, but he was on the money Wednesday. Extremely accurate.

Throughout the entire practice, there were just three bad plays: a jump ball to Torrey Smith that landed incomplete, a miscommunication with Smith that was picked of by Rodney McLeod and an overthrow on the sideline.

Aside from those plays, Wentz was money. He connected on two deep balls (probably about 50 yards apiece) to Nelson Agholor.

Head coach Doug Pederson said that Wentz has been showing him enough consistency throughout the spring, but Wentz simply hasn't been that consistent. Wednesday was a big day for him.

2. When the offense got on the field going against air, it was practicing play-action passes and passes where Wentz was rolling out of the pocket. It seemed to really get him into a rhythm early. It's something we saw at times from him during his rookie season. When he's able to throw on the run, the other passes start falling easier. His ability to throw on the run is what might end up separating him from quarterbacks around the league; he's really good at it.

3. Let's talk about Agholor. If an alien landed his spaceship at the NovaCare Complex and was explained the rules of football and allowed to watch all of the Eagles' practices this spring, he would be convinced Agholor is the team's best receiver.

Because for the past few weeks, he has been.

That certainly has Eagles fans rolling their eyes, and rightfully so. Agholor has been a disaster once he gets in games and has come nowhere near living up to his draft status. And it's hard to believe he's turned a corner. But it's undeniable that he's looked good this spring, which might speak to the unimportance of these workouts as a whole.

4. Jordan Matthews (knee) was still not on the field Wednesday. Last week, Doug Pederson was unsure if Matthews would practice at all this week; now it looks unlikely. The team will give him an extended period of time to heal before training camp.

Elsewhere, Fletcher Cox left practice early with a neck strain, and Dorial Green-Beckham missed practice with a foot injury. Neither injury seems serious. 

Newcomer and veteran Gabe Wright took his first-team reps next to Tim Jernigan.

5. Rookie Shelton Gibson has had a really tough spring. No other way to put it. But the West Virginia product finally made a couple really nice plays. He made two contested catches in traffic -- one in 11-on-11 and one in 7-on-7. For a rookie who has been down on himself because of the struggles, those two plays might help to bring back some confidence.

Second-year player C.J. Smith, from North Dakota State, also had a good day of practice and even got some first-team reps over Rasul Douglas in 7-on-7s. Perhaps the play that pushed him into action with the ones was in 11-on-11s, when he played perfect coverage on Gibson and stepped in front of him for a pick. Smith still has a shot at the roster.

6. Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo continue to split first-team reps at left guard and Lane Johnson continues to get first-team reps at left tackle full-team drills. Jason Peters isn't participating in full-team drills yet after returning to the team this week.

Overall, the offensive line had a good day after giving up a few sacks on Tuesday. It gave Wentz plenty of time to throw.

Seumalo took a few reps at first-team center. The team makes sure he gets reps at center here and there.

7. Peters seemed happy about his one-year extension and the chance to finish his career with the Eagles. One of the underrated things Peters brings to the table is his ability to help younger players. While he's a quiet guy in the media, Peters is always around to help rookies and anyone who needs it. After practice on Wednesday, he was giving 1-on-1 instruction to Chance Warmack in the locker room. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai said during these practices when Peters isn't doing everything, he's giving the other tackles tips between plays.

8. Najee Goode is still a fringe roster guy, but he's been playing well. He made one diving pass breakup against Zach Ertz on Wednesday.

9. We all know Donnel Pumphrey is a quick and shifty player, but I saw something from him on Wednesday I haven't seen much of before. He took a handoff and busted through the line, pulling off the smoothest spin move I have seen in a while. It was impressive enough to leave a linebacker with armfuls of air.

10. Over the last couple days, when the Eagles go into two-running back sets, Pumphrey and Darren Sproles are on the field. When they go single-back, LeGarrette Blount gets the first shot, followed by second-year player Wendell Smallwood.

We still don't have a clear idea of what the running back rotation will look like during the season. Maybe that will start to come into focus during training camp.

Stupid Observation of the Day: When the offense was going against air (no defense), the referee patrolling the sideline ran with the receivers on every play when they caught a ball. One one play, Torrey Smith ran the entire length of the field and the referee stayed with him (kind of). When Smith crossed the goal line, the ref was down there to signal touchdown.