Eagles-Seahawks, Day After: Nelson Agholor Admits Mental Mistakes

Agholor — and his teammates — explain why the receiver is struggling so much.

Nelson Agholor. (USA Today Sports)

Nelson Agholor. (USA Today Sports)

SEATTLE — Eagles receivers coach Greg Lewis was livid. Standing on the CenturyLink Field sideline near midfield less than a foot from the field of play, Lewis angrily motioned with his right arm for Nelson Agholor to get closer to the line of scrimmage three times. To Lewis’ left, the head linesman also signaled to Agholor that the receiver wasn’t on the line of scrimmage.

Agholor, however, never turned his head to the left to ensure he wasn’t too far off of the ball. The result, of course, was an illegal formation penalty, which negated Zach Ertz’s 57-yard touchdown catch. Instead of taking a potential 14-13 lead, Philadelphia had to punt two plays later, before Seattle turned their advantage into a two-possession edge on the following series.

“I thought I covered the line as well as I should have, but I should have checked with him,” Agholor said. “That’s the number one thing: You always have to check with the ref, and usually that’s usually one of the first things I do. When I lined up, I just hugged the line and tried to focus on what the coverage was and what I needed to do.”

Several Eagles expressed frustration over Agholor’s mistake after the game. Jordan Matthews called the penalty “inexcusable,” while Doug Pederson labeled it a “momentum changer.” Zach Ertz, meanwhile, indirectly referenced how Nelson Agholor also cost him a touchdown catch last season against Washington because of an illegal formation penalty.

When Agholor exited the field following the next play, Lewis yelled at him on the sideline. Even Carson Wentz, the even-keeled quarterback, admitted his annoyance after the game, with Malcolm Jenkins piling on, too.

“It’s frustrating. You would think you can get lined up, that’s the basics of football,” Jenkins said. “When you give up plays like that on a small little thing, you hurt yourself. Obviously, you need those points in tough game where you’re kind of battling, but we didn’t come up with it and got what we deserved.”

Just two offensive snaps later, however, Agholor compounded his mistake. He dropped a perfect throw 20 yards down the middle of the field while he was wide open, and crystallized why he’s struggled this season: His confidence is shot, and he’s let the outside noise distract him.

Pederson said a few weeks ago his 23-year-old sophomore receiver hasn’t been able to block out what others are saying about him, and Agholor admitted that both with his play and when he addressed reporters after the Eagles’ 26-15 loss.

“I just have to get out of my own head. I’m pressing so much and worried about so many things,” Agholor said. “I’m thinking too much and so worried and it’s such a selfish thing that I need to stop. I need to give my energy to my teammates and this organization and not myself and feeling so pressured to make every single thing. Just have fun.

“I did it to myself. I started getting in my own head and trying so hard to think about being perfect and when the miscues where there and they were exposed, I let it just eat at me. I need to continue to work better at letting things go and just playing hard and practicing hard and let what I practice and the investments I make in practice translate to Sunday.”

Although Agholor cost the Eagles a touchdown and approximately 100 yards on two plays alone, the implications of his mindset extend much further than a single game. Wentz says he hasn’t lost confidence in Agholor and Pederson noted he would continue to encourage the receiver, but Agholor’s issues are ones only he can address.

While he hasn’t shown the ability you’d expect from a first-round pick, Agholor does have enough skill to play in the NFL. He also clearly has the work ethic, but his mental issues are preventing him from being productive. Ertz explained that Agholor’s challenges are “hard to overcome,” but the receiver just needs to take a deep breath, relax and focus. Agholor shouldn’t change his on-the-field work habits, teammates say, and his tireless desire to improve gives other offensive players hope he’ll get better.

“At the end of the day, you can’t think about it. I don’t know what he reads. I don’t know what he looks at. I’ve told my whole [receiving] corps: Don’t ever read that stuff. Don’t ever do it. It’s just not healthy,” Matthews said. “The worst thing you can do is bring a whole bunch of other stuff outside of the game and outside of practice and outside of your job to your job. You’re trying not to just go out there and catch the ball, you’re trying to go impress a whole bunch of other people.

“I don’t want to see somebody fall to this. I’ve seen too many guys let football take away their life. … Right now, this is probably the lowest for him, but I am just praying that he actually can put this behind him now, start looking at the positives and then come back from all of this.”

Agholor, for his part, sung the tune you’d expect: I’ll get better. I’ll continue to work hard. I’ll be the receiver this team badly needs me to be. He even apologized to fans for his poor performance. But ask any professional athlete who has played in Philadelphia, and they will tell you one attribute is a prerequisite: mental toughness. The fan and media criticism can be relentless, and you must be able to block it out.

Agholor, however, added that a change of scenery is not necessary and that it wouldn’t do him any good.

“No. Football is a tough game for tough people no matter who I play for or where I’m at,” he said. “I need to focus on understanding that it’s tough and I’m meant for this. My parents raised me for this; all the coaches I had before this, Coach Pederson [and] Coach Lewis — they all prepare me for these moments and I need to really embrace that and take advantage of it.

“At times, mentally, I can put myself in a storm, but I need to jump out of the storm. … When you get through the storms, things clear up. I really believe that it’s going to clear up and I just need to continue to fight. That’s one thing I can’t do is give up.”


Former NFL scout Dan Shonka, who worked for the Eagles, among a few other teams:






Doug Pederson on why he didn’t call a timeout when Nelson Agholor wasn’t lined up properly:

“We could have. Sometimes the receivers look to the sidelines. I didn’t want to burn a timeout or waste a timeout in that situation. It was just unfortunate.”

Brandon Graham on his offsides penalty on third-and-16, which gave the Seahawks another chance at a first down before eventually scoring a touchdown:

“That starts with me, because we have been practicing that all day. We said ‘No hard counts,’ we had been doing a great job of that and I felt like I let them down on that drive. I know for sure that I’m going to come back, work as hard as I can, get it right for the boys and I’m sure they’re going to do the same.”

Richard Sherman on Carson Wentz, who completed just 23 of his 45 pass attempts for 218 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 61.2 passer rating.

“He was poised. He wasn’t shook. He’s a rook. That’s what he is. … He’s been kind of getting an easy walk through this league and then he ran into some people that we’ve been there before. We’ve seen your looks. We know your plays. So, he’s going to learn from it and he’s going to work hard and come back.”



Player# of snaps% of snaps
Allen Barbre80100%
Brandon Brooks80100%
Jason Kelce80100%
Carson Wentz80100%
Halapoulivaati Vaitai7594%
Jordan Matthews7391%
Nelson Agholor7090%
Zach Ertz7090%
Jason Peters6682%
Dorial Green-Beckham6480%
Wendell Smallwood3848%
Brent Celek1924%
Stefen Wisniewski1924%
Kenjon Barner1822%
Ryan Mathews1418%
Darren Sproles1012%
Bryce Treggs911%
Isaac Seumalo810%
Trey Burton79%

*The Eagles played a season-high 80 snaps, and outside of the guys who didn’t miss an offensive play, Zach Ertz (88 percent) and Dorial Green-Beckham (80 percent) tallied season-highs. Wendell Smallwood (48 percent) and Kenjon Barner (22 percent) also recorded season-high snaps because of Ryan Mathews’ (18 percent) knee injury and Darren Sproles’ (12 percent) rib injury.

*After playing 15 snaps in back-to-back games in his first two NFL appearances, Bryce Treggs’ (11 percent) snap count dropped to nine. Nelson Agholor (88 percent) was on the field for 70 offensive plays, which is clearly too many. Doug Pederson’s problem? He has very little talent at receiver, so regardless of whom he replaces Agholor with, he’ll get little production from the outside.

*Both Halapoulivaati Vaitai (94 percent) and Jason Peters (82 percent) missed snaps, and while Peters (forearm) returned to the game, Vaitai (knee) did not. Because of those injuries, Stefen Wisniewski (24 percent) played 19 snaps while Allen Barbre (100 percent) shifted to left and right tackle, depending on who was out.


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Jordan Hicks67100%
Malcolm Jenkins67100%
Rodney McLeod67100%
Nigel Bradham6699%
Nolan Carroll5481%
Brandon Graham4872%
Fletcher Cox4567%
Connor Barwin4466%
Bennie Logan4364%
Leodis McKelvin4161%
Jalen Mills4060%
Jaylen Watkins3654%
Mychal Kendricks3146%
Vinny Curry2639%
Beau Allen2436%
Marcus Smith2131%
Destiny Vaeao1624%

*The cornerback splits: Nolan Carroll (81 percent), Leodis McKelvin (61 percent) and Jalen Mills (60 percent). McKelvin and Mills rotated early in the game, and it appeared McKelvin would get more snaps after Mills allowed back-to-back big completions of at least 30 yards in the second quarter, but McKelvin missed some snaps while he was being evaluated for a concussion.

*The Eagles played nickel a majority of the snaps, so Jaylen Watkins (54 percent) was on the field for 36 plays as the second safety with Malcolm Jenkins (100 percent) dropping down to slot corner.

*Vinny Curry (39 percent) played just 26 snaps, which is tied for his lowest number of the season since the Eagles’ fourth game of the year.