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Suddenly, Eagles WR Position is Loaded

Posted Aug 2, 2017

Nelson Agholor has the goal of “being one of the best receivers in the National Football League,” a notion that would have been difficult to fathom as he scuffled through the 2016 season. But this Agholor is completely different than that Agholor and, well, it’s hard not to root for the guy ...

Nelson Agholor has the goal of “being one of the best receivers in the National Football League,” a notion that would have been difficult to fathom as he scuffled through the 2016 season. But this Agholor is completely different than that Agholor and, well, it’s hard not to root for the guy.

It’s also hard not to notice that Agholor is having a very fine summer of football. After an offseason of dedicating himself physically and mentally, Agholor has come out and played some football and the Eagles’ wide receiver corps is better for it.

We’re one week into Training Camp, a time for overreaction and too-soon conclusions. Agholor has not exactly been a revelation – the guy was a first-round draft pick, after all – but he’s been outstanding and 180 degrees different from what he was at the end of last year and, suddenly the Eagles are pretty darn loaded at wide receiver.

Let’s repeat: The Eagles are pretty darn loaded at wide receiver.

Now, again, this is how it looks one week into Training Camp. The Eagles have had “live” drills all of one day. The preseason opener is still a week away. In other words, we’re in the dog days of camp – just far enough away from the start of camp that the freshness has worn off and so many days away from the preseason opener that a game seems like a million miles away.

In the meantime, the Eagles conduct practice, continue installing the playbook, and evaluating the players. The ultimate objective of the preseason, of course, is to put together the best 53-man roster for the season ahead. And how about this for an observation: The Eagles' wide receiver corps is so impressive to date that Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas and the coaching staff will have some very, very difficult decisions to make along the way.

“The wide receivers have played very well and it’s a credit to them and to Coach (Mike) Groh (wide receivers coach) who has done a great job with them,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “From the so-called top to the so-called bottom, this wide receiver group is as good as any I’ve been around. You see a lot of guys stepping up.”

Chatter about the wide receivers has been popular among Eagles fans since the early days of the Andy Reid era. Those Eagles teams went to NFC Championship Games with unspectacular groups of wide receivers – Todd Pinkston, James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell – who were ultimately slowed enough to deny the Eagles a Super Bowl trip.

Then, in 2004, it all changed. The Eagles traded for Terrell Owens and the wins mounted. Owens racked up 1,200 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns before he suffered that nasty ankle/leg injury and missed the NFC playoffs. The Eagles won, anyway, and advanced to the Super Bowl.

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Receivers are important. Last year’s group had too many drops and not enough big plays and the Eagles spent a sizable portion of their offseason on the position – inking Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, and using a fourth-round draft pick (Mack Hollins) and a fifth-round draft pick (Shelton Gibson) on receivers.

They let Greg Lewis go after one year as the wide receivers coach and hired Groh and hoped that, along with the external additions, the holdovers from last season would improve.

It has, to date, worked out extremely well. Jeffery, until he suffered a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for a couple of days in camp, showed dominating skills as the go-to player in the passing game. Smith has the juice to get over the top and stretch defenses. Jordan Matthews is a matchup problem for defensive backs coming out of the slot. Agholor has played the best football of his Eagles life after a nightmarish 2016. Hollins has a chance to dress on gamedays because he comes advertised as a beast on special teams. Gibson has struggled to catch the football consistently, but the Eagles want to give him a chance to work through the learning curve in an offense that is completely different than what he knew at West Virginia.

Additionally, the Eagles are delighted with the early-camp play of Marcus Johnson, who spent last season on the practice squad. Johnson is speedy and explosive and he’s separated well and caught a lot of passes in this too-early portion of camp. Johnson is making his bid to force the Eagles to keep six wide receivers.

This is all very encouraging stuff. One week into camp, the receivers have been a major story, all for the right reasons. 

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