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Rookie Trojans Set Up For NFL Success: Nelson Agholor

Andrew McKagan |
June 1, 2015 | 10:41 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

USC had six players taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, tied for fifth-most among all schools. However, the three with the most direct opportunities for significant playing time are Leonard Williams (sixth overall, NY Jets), Nelson Agholor (20th overall, Philadelphia Eagles), and Buck Allen (125th overall, Baltimore Ravens).

Williams goes to a situation in New York that is already loaded at defensive line, but he will still see a lot of opportunity, as one of the best incoming NFL prospects. Agholor should see plenty of snaps due to Jeremy Maclin's free agency departure and Chip Kelly's pension for using young receivers both early and often. And finally, Allen already has a chance to win the second running back job this year behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. All three of these players have clear paths to playing time, and the respective situations each has been drafted into could mean great success in the very near future.

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We have already looked at Leonard Williams' fit on the Jets. Next up, it's Cody Kessler's former favorite target in the City of Brotherly Love: WR Nelson Agholor. 

Nelson Agholor

The first thing that stands out about the receivers in Chip Kelly's offense is how much his scheme benefits them. The Eagles' receivers are talented, sure, but Kelly is simply a master at maximizing their abilities.

Play designs like this clear-out/pick for Josh Huff (running top-to-bottom) help get the primary receiver running into open field, while making it very difficult for the defense to fight through the traffic to keep up:

And similarly:

The receiver will come across the formation post-snap—behind the offensive line—using them as a shield to deter the defender from following closely. This makes for a short, easy completion for the quarterback to a receiver who automatically has ample yards-after-catch opportunity. This type of play is perfect for Agholor, who excels in space with the ball in his hands. 

And this, probably one of the best play calls of the 2014 Eagles' season, is a throwback wide receiver screen off a play action to Jeremy Maclin. Notice how Nick Foles uses his eyes to fool the defense and how right tackle Lane Johnson sneaks out into the flat to take care of Maclin's defender. Easy 21-yard touchdown:

The Eagles' offense ran this following type of play quite often against man coverage: 

This is an isolation route for the slot receiver (Jordan Matthews #81) to the wide side of the field, which is incredibly difficult for the defender since it gives the receiver so much field space to work with.

Kelly's pre-snap stacked formations also negated press coverage on his receivers. It made the defense's mental assignments more complicated:

Here's a common slot-stack formation that Agholor should be used in as the "off" (the line of scrimmage) receiver quite a bit:

Agholor will also undoubtedly be integrated into quick-read plays like this one:

Riley Cooper motions into the backfield pre-snap and runs his route into the offensive right flat; Jeremy Maclin and Josh Huff, meanwhile, run a "smash" concept combination, in which Maclin runs an underneath "stick" type of route and Huff runs a deep corner route downfield.

All of this action is meant to confuse the defense and, against what appears to be largely man-coverage by Washington, Foles must simply wait for the defenders to switch assignments before he throws the ball, depending on the position and leverage of each defender after they switch.

As seen from the image, the cornerback (#23 DeAngelo Hall) switches to pick up Huff (if Hall didn't do this, Huff would have run wide open), The inside underneath defender still trails Huff (failing to switch), and the outside defender covers Cooper's route in the flat. These routes out-leverage the defense's man coverage, forcing switching and subsequent confusion as Foles dumps it off to Maclin for an easy first down. 

Agholor ran these type of quick-read routes all the time at USC. Here is a "stick" route from the slot position where Cody Kessler could have either handed it off or thrown it, depending on the defender count and post-snap reaction in the box:

The following is another extremely common route that Kelly has his outside receivers run:

When run well, this route is lethal against both Man and Cover-3 coverage. The receiver fakes like he wants inside leverage, then the quick cut back toward the sideline about 10 yards downfield is meant to actually establish outside leverage on the defender.

This route can be successful especially against Cover-3, where the outside corner commonly plays outside leverage with his back toward the sideline, and attempts to "squeeze" the receiver in toward his help in the middle of the field. In turn, the defender has more difficulty flipping his hips to turn back out in the opposite direction toward the sideline.

Here's Maclin torching Patrick Peterson on this route:

Agholor is extremely sudden in his movements, and should excel at this route as well.

Agholor also ran slant routes with great success at USC, and Kelly is known for running these quick-hitters as well. Watch Agholor get inside position and catch the ball through traffic on this slant:

As mentioned earlier, Philadelphia lost Maclin in free agency, and while skillset-wise Maclin has a little more straight-line speed and Agholor is probably quicker, they are similar enough that Agholor will likely do many of the same things that Maclin did last year.

The Eagles' wide receiver depth chart also looks pretty barren right now (Miles Austin is in line for significant snaps), so Agholor is probably already their most talented wideout and should see plenty of snaps next year. Rookie of the Year candidacy is a very real possibility, as Kelly's offense overall is very well suited for Agholor, who ran a lot of the same types of plays at USC.

Follow Andrew McKagan here or email him at [email protected]



 

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