At various points on the first day of Organized Team Activities for the Eagles, a pair of former first-round draft picks lined up against each other, both trying to make a play, trying to resurrect careers. Patrick Robinson was the 32nd player taken in the 2010 NFL Draft. Nelson Agholor was the 20th overall pick in 2015. They have a lot in common.
Both, basically, want to get back to playing like first-round draft picks. For Robinson, injuries have sidetracked a career that started well enough in New Orleans, but has since careened through San Diego and then Indianapolis before the Eagles signed him as an unrestricted free agent in the spring.
Agholor, of course, started right away in his rookie season and appeared to be on a promising track before a high ankle sprain derailed his year. In 2016, Agholor was just a mess. An off-field incident as the Eagles ended their spring drills set the stage for a season in which Agholor sidelined himself.
Both feel they have fresh starts. Both think the opportunities for excellence are still there.
"It's been pretty fun so far. I'm starting to get back into football shape," said Robinson, who took first-team reps with the defense at cornerback along with Jalen Mills. Mills moved into the slot when the offense added a third wide receiver, and rookie Rasul Douglas played outside along with Robinson. "I'm not all the way there, but it's been pretty fun so far. I'm just trying to get everything back on track as far as my health and as far as my technique. I think I'm pretty healthy right now.
"I've definitely had an up-and-down journey. My goal this year is to play as consistently as I can play and play up to the level that I know I can play. It's been frustrating having some injuries, but at the same time it's an experience I can learn from. I'm here, and I'm going to make the best of it."
Agholor has contributed just 59 receptions and three touchdown receptions in his two Eagles seasons. He has struggled. Everyone has seen it. But he's also taking the "fresh-start" approach and has a sign in his locker that reads, "The future is bright, and the present is powerful."
For whatever it means, Agholor played fast and caught everything thrown his way on Tuesday. Good start. Day by day.
"I'm confident and comfortable in where I'm headed and taking advantage of every day," Agholor said. "I want to be a better football player each day and work hard every day. I just want to make myself a better player. That's the pressure I feel.
"I feel good. I like what I see and I really like where I'm headed."
Agholor admits that he spent his offseason attacking the game. He reflected on the disappointment of last season. He worked on his speed and his strength and his durability. Instead of hoping for a "miracle," as he said, Agholor wanted to take the small steps slowly and seriously.
In his third year, Agholor is on the verge of a make-or-break season. He knows the Eagles loaded up at wide receiver in free agency with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and then added two more receivers in the draft. Agholor, it would seem, is guaranteed nothing.
"I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team," Agholor said when he was asked if feels he is fighting for a roster spot. "And that takes care of it right there. I want to be a guy who, when you watch me on tape you say, 'Yeah, I need him.' It don't matter about a roster spot. The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players. And that's what I focus on every day."
Two players, sharing the bond of first-round picks who have not have the career paths they expected. For both Robinson and Agholor, it is certainly not too late to get on the right track.
"I feel like I'm starting over. It's a fresh start," said Robinson, who had an ankle injury in 2010, a blown patellar tendon in 2013, hamstring problems in 2014, concussion issues in 2016, and a groin injury that KO'd him last season with the Colts. "I'm new here. We'll see where it goes. I wanted to play somewhere where I am more at peace. I knew Malcolm (Jenkins) from our days together at New Orleans and I knew how the locker room would be. I felt this would be a good fit and so far, it's been a good fit."
Jenkins was instrumental in helping Robinson decide on the Eagles. The two talked, and Jenkins told Robinson of the accepting culture in the locker room and in the cornerback room.
The fit, Jenkins thought, seemed right.
"When he was in New Orleans, he had some really good years, especially when he was healthy," Jenkins said. "It was a good environment there. It was close. Tight knit. It's not easy to find that. So from there he's either been hurt or he hasn't had quite the same support system and I think that makes a big difference. That's very important to him. So he's here, and he's familiar with me and I think he feels really good about being here.
"When he's at his best, he's explosive and he's a natural talent who makes a lot of plays. He has to learn the defense as fast as he can and he has to stay healthy. I think he can be a good addition for us."
We'll see. It's so very early. Two players, two first-round picks, similar quests to get to where they want to be. Spring hopes are eternal for Patrick Robinson and Nelson Agholor.