Eagles’ Agholor takes ‘first step’ to becoming top receiver

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, right, rushes past Washington Redskins free safety D.J. Swearinger for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) Teammates and Philadelphia Eagles coaches saw glimpses of Nelson Agholor looking like a different player well before his breakout game in the season opener Sunday at Washington.

Now they hope his career-high six catches and 86 yards are just the start for the high-potential receiver who went through some tough times last season just trying to hold on to the ball.

”For him, this is the first step of the type of receiver he can be and will be for us,” coach Doug Pederson said. ”This is the reason he was drafted so high.”

Agholor was the 20th overall pick in 2015 during the Chip Kelly era. He was even made inactive one game last year because of his struggles. Carson Wentz ”saw a more confident player” during the offseason, and he and Agholor hooked up on a 58-yard touchdown in the first-quarter against the Redskins that delighted the many Eagles fans in attendance.

The 24-year-old Southern California product is having more fun with football now, something the Eagles would love to see continue next week at the Kansas City Chiefs.

”I’m focused on getting better every day,” Agholor said. ”My confidence is great because I’m blessed, and every day I get an opportunity to play this game. (Sunday) was a great opportunity to perform on a stage after all the hard work that myself and my teammates have put in since spring. And we’re not done.”

Getting Agholor to perform like a first-rounder would go a long way for the Eagles, who signed Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith in the offseason to give Wentz more weapons in the passing game. Lining in the slot because of those additions, Agholor feels he can play wherever and isn’t focused on redemption after just 59 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns in his first 28 NFL games.

”I want to think about being me, focus on being Nelson,” Agholor said. ”I’m a part of a great wide receiving corps that works hard every game. On any day it could be somebody’s night. You got to give it up to your brothers in that room making plays when they come to you.”

Here are some more things we learned in the Eagles’ 30-17 victory over the Redskins:

EASING IN DOCTSON: Speaking of first-round receivers who haven’t shown much yet, Washington’s Josh Doctson was more or less a decoy and blocker after being hampered by a hamstring injury during the preseason but practicing fully during the week. Doctson, who missed all but two games during his rookie year as a first-rounder in 2016, wasn’t targeted against the Eagles. He should be more of a factor when the Redskins visit former offensive coordinator Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.

”We’re getting him back in there,” coach Jay Gruden said of Doctson. ”We’re making sure he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to go and can handle practice after practice, game after game. We’ll give him more reps as the season progresses.”

LIFE AFTER DARBY: Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby will undergo further tests after injuring his right ankle, but Pederson said he’s ”sure he’ll miss some time.” While kicker Caleb Sturgis (hip) is a question mark and left tackle Jason Peters expects to play against Kansas City after leaving with a groin injury, Darby’s absence would be significant after Philadelphia sent a 2018 third-round pick and receiver Jordan Matthews to the Buffalo Bills for the 23-year-old.

SLOW-STARTING REDSKINS: After the Redskins lost their opener for the fifth consecutive year, they’ll look to avoid being the third team in that span to start 0-2.

”We have no choice but to rebound,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. ”I don’t know what it is. Five straight openers. We’ve got a talented team. We’ve just got to execute better, I guess.”

HOLES IN OFFENSIVE LINE: Washington’s offensive line struggled against Philadelphia’s pass rush as right tackle Morgan Moses played through an ankle injury and left tackle Trent Williams left briefly with one. Pressure up the middle is a particular concern for the Redskins, who got center Spencer Long back after knee surgery.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The Eagles’ offense didn’t get much of a running game going as LeGarrette Blount had 46 yards on 14 carries. For all of Wentz being a ”magician” to Agholor, there’s plenty to work on as Pederson called the offense ”just OK.”

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