Philadelphia Eagles Sit Nelson Agholor Against Green Bay | What Now?

Sep 19, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Tracy Porter (21) breaks up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (17) during the second half at Soldier Field. Philadelphia won 29-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears cornerback Tracy Porter (21) breaks up a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (17) during the second half at Soldier Field. Philadelphia won 29-14. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Eagles have finally decided to sit their hapless wide receiver Nelson Agholor, replacing him with preseason hero WR Paul Turner. What now?

After a whirlwind of NFL football this past Sunday, the league is left waiting to watch the Green Bay Packers visit the Philadelphia Eagles in prime time on Monday night. Plenty of storylines will converge in Philly, including the faint playoff hopes of both squads, recent tough losses, and a disappointingly effete offense under Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy.

But the Packers aren’t the only team dealing with offensive woes. Buckle your seat belts, folks. Here we go:


Don’t even read this. It hurts too much.

But only one of those teams has Tom Brady and Bill Belichick…

…just let that one sink in for a second.

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The most disappointing of the Eagles’ paltry WR core–and the most scathingly mocked by the public (somebody set up a GoFundMe page to help the Eagles recoup the cap losses of potentially cutting him)–is 2015 first round pick WR Nelson Agholor. The second year man out of USC simply cannot get out of his own head. His confidence is so shot, his mental game so off, that many have argued that the result in Seattle last week would have been much different if he didn’t play.

They’re probably right.

Since the abysmal Seattle game, head coach Doug Pederson has publicly admitted to considering benching Agholor. He spoke at length during numerous press conferences about this week’s quality of practice, and what it would reveal about Agholor’s confidence and mental readiness for tonight’s game

Then, Ian Rapoport gave us a glimpse of Pederson’s decision:

And Adam Caplan put the nail in the proverbial coffin:

So, Nelson Agholor meets the bench. The question is, what will this do for the young, much-maligned receiver? And what does it mean for the sputtering Philadelphia Eagles’ offense tonight, in a must-win game against the Green Bay Packers?

Well, there are a few possibilities.

1) Paul Turner revolutionizes the game of football. Agholor sits for the year, gets cut in the offseason, and vanishes into obscurity.

You know a position stinks when the fan base cries for two undrafted free agents to see playing time. But a few weeks ago, Eagle fans everywhere rejoiced as WR Bryce Treggs was promoted to the active roster. And this week, preseason champion and presumed messiah Paul Turner suits up in #BackToBlack Monday gear and plays the first regular season game of his career.

Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Paul Turner (80) scores on a 71 yard punt return against the New York Jets during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Now, there’s a reason Turner went undrafted–he’s not as physically talented as Agholor, and he doesn’t run as nice of routes (yes, Agholor does do some things well). Turner’s under 6 feet and only 185 lbs. He’s not particularly fast or strong, and he’s not the best special teams contributor (though he did return a punt for a touchdown in the preseason). Usually, those final men you sneak onto the roster are specialized players who can excel in one niche–think Treggs. But Turner’s not like that. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally.

Well, perhaps he does one thing exceptionally. He catches the football.

Turner snagged a preseason best–that’s for the entire NFL, mind you–17 balls for 165 yards. Those 17 snags came on…wait for it…21 targets.

Twenty-one?! That’s bonkers. That’s an 81% catch rate, people.

Would you like some context?

  • Nelson Agholor: 27 receptions, 51 targets, 52.9%
  • Dorial Green-Beckham: 23 receptions, 44 targets, 52.3%
  • Jordan Matthews: 53 receptions, 86 targets, 61.6%

Only one WR in the NFL this season (who has seen more than 7 targets) has a catch rate over 80%–Keenan Allen, at 86% before his season-ending injury.

Now, Turner will go up against stiffer competition than he did in the preseason, so that number should come down, as Allen’s would have eventually. He’s not going to do much damage after the catch, and he’s not much of a threat in the red zone. But if the kid actually catches the ball on third down, extends just one more drive that would have stalled otherwise, Agholor’s gonna have to bring a seat warmer: those metal benches get cold in December.

As a side note: just think, for a second, what a reliable target at the WR position might mean for the development of QB Carson Wentz. Ask QB Dak Prescott and WR Cole Beasley (79% catch rate) how they like it.

2) Paul Turner plays like an undrafted rookie, Agholor returns after his mental health day, and ho-hum resumes.

This is, I regret to report, the most likely of the scenarios. Undrafted free agent success stories (Arian Foster, Wes Welker) are among the best in the NFL, and of course I’d love to see one in Philly. There’s definitely a chance. But Paul Turner most likely won’t explode onto the scene, and the Eagles will be left with a solid slot WR in Jordan Matthews, and absolute bullocks after him.

I don’t think Agholor’s issues can be solved in just a week off. It’ll be stress relief, maybe, as the news cycle circulates and some of the attention falls elsewhere. But the second he gets back in the lineup this year and drops a pass–which he will–the storyline resurrects with a vengeance. For the sake of the player, I think a change of scenery will come in the upcoming offseason.


3) Paul Turner plays like an undrafted rookie, Agholor returns after his mental health day, and proceeds to become anywhere from a serviceable WR to Jerry Rice 2.0

…in which case, go out and by some lottery tickets. Immediately. There are no rules anymore.

If I had the call, I would have promoted Turner and kept Agholor active. With LB Kamu Grieger-Hill back, I think LB Stephen Tulloch can be scratched from the active roster–he doesn’t contribute on special teams. Then, I would have honestly tried to throw Agholor out of his legendary slump. Once I had a big lead in a game, I’d start feeding him. He’d eventually start catching the football.

How do the best shooters in the NBA get out of a slump? They just keep shooting through it, and eventually the shots start to fall.

But, if you’re going to bench him, do it for multiple games. Hide him from the Philadelphia media’s vitriolic internet-lashing as best you can. Pay Joel Embiid to do something silly and magical to distract us. Then, once the reset button really and truly has been hit, bring him back and give him a second chance.

It’s not like he can get worse, right?

Looking to tonight:

With multiple inactives on the offensive side of the ball (OUT: WR Nelson Agholor, RB Ryan Matthews, OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai. QUESTIONABLE: RB Darren Sproles), Doug Pederson needs to get creative. The Packers’ entire team, however, has also suffered from the war of attrition (OUT: OLB Kyler Fackrell, CB Demetri Goodson, G T.J. Lang, LB Blake Martinez. QUESTIONABLE: CB Damarious Randal, LB Jake Ryan).

I’m sure the Eagles will look to take advantage of their lack of depth tonight.

Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 19, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood (28) carries the ball against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. The Eagles won 29-14. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Sproles will play with a broken rib, but look for the Eagles to keep his touches in check–he’s 33, and too valuable to risk re-injury. Rookie RB Wendell Smallwood should take the lion’s share of the carries, spelled by Sproles and RB Kenjon Barner. This coaching staff seems reluctant to get Barner involved in the offense, but I think he can do some damage in a few pass-catching snaps that otherwise would have gone to Sproles. Look for both Smallwood and Barner to rip off a play longer than 20 yards.

I also anticipate a lot more of TE Trey Burton tonight. Remember that first play of the Seahawks game? Burton on the outside, matched up against a corner? 14 yard pick-up. It was easy.

Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have always seen Burton as a WR/TE hybrid. Jordan Matthews does his best work out of the slot, so with whom do you replace Nelson Agholor on the outside? We will certainly see an uptick in snaps for WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs, and Paul “Better Call Paul” Turner, but I think Burton also sees more looks on the outside and produces accordingly

What was that? Bold prediction, you say? 6 catches, 68 yards, and a touchdown. Take it to the bank.

Next: Staff Predictions Week Twelve

All in all, this is a poor, depleted defense the Philadelphia Eagles are facing–at home, in prime time, in a must-win game. The Packers will have some fight to them, as their season desperately clings to life support, but if the Eagles’ offense can’t get back on track here, I don’t know if it ever will.

One thing’s for sure: there’s no Nelson Agholor to blame this time.