LAST YEAR, Jordan Matthews had as close to a perfect training camp as a wide receiver - rookie or veteran - could have. Caught every pass thrown to him. Ran every route to perfection.
His teammates and coaches constantly praised him. The media were running out of superlatives to describe him.
And it was driving Bob Bicknell freaking nuts.
"Because he was having so much success," the Eagles wide receivers coach said. "I don't like it when everybody's writing bad things about guys. It bums me out. But Jordan, I kind of wanted him to feel some pain a little bit."
Bicknell got his wish in the Eagles' first preseason game against Chicago last summer when Matthews dropped three passes and proved he indeed was human.
"I was so happy when he dropped those balls in Chicago," Bicknell said. "I said, 'This is so great.' "
Matthews managed to recover nicely. Caught 67 passes, including eight touchdowns, as a rookie. Had a team-high 25 third-down receptions.
Another highly acclaimed Eagles rookie wide receiver made his preseason debut yesterday. But Bicknell wasn't hoping Nelson Agholor would stumble and feel the same pain Matthews did.
Agholor, the Eagles' first-round pick, hasn't had a perfect training camp. It hasn't been bad, but there have been the typical rookie ups and downs that come with making the college-to-pro transition and learning Chip Kelly's 100-mile-an-hour offense.
What he needed yesterday, what Bicknell wanted for him, was a solid performance that would boost his confidence going forward in the preseason.
"He needs to have some success and some fun," Bicknell said the day before the game. "He's a very serious kid. I need to loosen him up a little bit. Eventually, we will."
Bicknell got his wish. Agholor caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles' 36-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts in their preseason opener. Also drew a 32-yard pass-interference penalty on cornerback Deveron Carr in the second quarter.
He also had a drop on a third-down sideline pass from Matt Barkley in the second quarter that would have given the Eagles a first down. But nobody's perfect.
The touchdown catch came on a short hitch pass from Mark Sanchez late in the first quarter that Agholor parlayed into a 34-yard score.
"Good habits on the practice field carry over into the game," Agholor said of the TD. "Sanchez and I have worked on multiple hitches in practice. It wasn't anything different today.
"I caught the ball and just wanted to finish. Every day in practice, we try to finish through two lines [10 yards]. I finished two lines, and it turned into more."
Colts cornerback Greg Toler came up to try to tackle Agholor on the play, but the 6-foot, 198-pound rookie slipped past him and bolted down the sideline and made it to the end zone.
"When I saw Josh [Huff] last year, he was so quick side to side," Matthews said. "Nelson, you talk about explosive efforts in practice. That kid has them. So it's not surprising when he takes a hitch to the house like that. He made another big play later on another hitch [for 15 yards and a first down on second-and-10]. Adding him to this offense is going to be huge."
After the game, Agholor was still kicking himself for the two targets that got away - the sideline drop and an earlier pass from Sanchez that was broken up by Toler.
"One was an in-crossing route," he said. "A basic route. I felt I could have come to the ball a little better than I did. I had two hands on the ball, but he raked it out. Then there was the [drop] on the sideline.
"I need to work on just finding the ball in the air, not looking for who's throwing the ball. My eyes went to the quarterback rather than the ball being thrown to me. But at the end of the day, I like the fact that that happened today. It's a good thing to learn from.
"This is the preseason. You let loose. You put some stuff on film. You learn from the good plays you make and you learn from the bad mistakes. We're still in a progression mode right now."
Bicknell acknowledged he has been riding Agholor hard in training camp.
"If you asked Nelson truthfully right now what he thinks of me, [he'd say], 'God almighty, the guy's driving me nuts,' " Bicknell said with a smile. "[I do that], because I think there are a lot of moments when he's questioning things.
"I want it to be right now. I don't want him to be [thinking], 'Oh, man, what should I do?' But I'll tell you one thing. I don't think he's had two bad days [of practice] in a row yet. If he had a bad day, the next day, it's like, wow, he did what we wanted him to do. And that's a good sign."
If Agholor really thinks Bicknell is driving him nuts, he didn't cop to it yesterday.
"He's doing a great job of staying on me," the rookie said. "That's one of the best things about it. He coaches in a special way. Stays on me. No room to breathe. And I respect that.
"He reminds me [to focus on the] next play. He tells me how you perform as a football player. You should try and attack the ball with great confidence.
"If you try to catch the ball the same way you practice, it's OK if you drop some. As long as you come with the same technique you always do."
One thing that appealed to head coach Chip Kelly about Agholor, besides his speed and size and ability to catch the football, was his growth mindset. Never be satisfied. Always work to get better, no matter what you've accomplished.
Agholor's parents were immigrants from Nigeria. Despite being educated people, they worked long hours at menial jobs to support Nelson and his four brothers and sisters.
Agholor entered the league four months ago with a lot of fanfare, taken with the 20th overall pick by the Eagles.
But there is no sense of entitlement with him. He's just another rookie trying to make it in the NFL.
"That [draft] night was amazing," he said. "Definitely a blessing. But it could've gone another way. They could've taken somebody else instead of me. I could've been picked the next day [in the second round].
"I came to an organization I really wanted to be with. Now it's time to play ball and progress as a football player."
On Twitter: @Pdomo