From DeSean Jackson in 2013 to Jeremy Maclin in 2014, Chip Kelly's offense produced a Pro Bowl wide receiver on the right side during his first two years with the Eagles. Kelly also let both receivers go.
He drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round last spring and inserted him as the starter on the right side - a spot at which Agholor could excel. But in 41/2 games this season, Agholor recorded only eight catches and 105 yards. He left in the first half against New Orleans with an ankle injury and missed the Eagles' next two games, keeping him from breaking out after the early-season struggles.
Agholor is set to return on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. If he is productive, he could provide the biggest boost to the Eagles offense of anyone during the back half of the schedule.
"All I know is I need to capitalize on all my opportunities - no matter how many it is, I need to capitalize on every single one," Agholor said. "You can't really be frustrated. You just need to be real with yourself. Any time I look at the film and I look at the opportunity here or there where I may have missed the ball or didn't create the separation I would have liked to, I just think, 'You've got to take advantage of it.' Because those might not come."
Kelly said Agholor had become acclimated to the Eagles' system before the injury "set him back." He saw Agholor pick up the offense and pointed to his big catches in Week 4 against Washington.
"I think he was just starting to kind of come in, get real comfortable with how the league is and what the matchups are each week and the challenges that he's going to face each week," Kelly said. "Then he got hurt. We're anxious to get him back."
Even when Agholor played, he was not targeted much. He has only 17 targets in 31/2 games, an average of 3.8 per game. Jackson averaged 7.9 targets per game in 2013; Maclin averaged 8.9 in 2014.
"I don't worry about that," Agholor said. "That's out of my control. I think what I need to do is just get open. Put good stuff on film. I think that's going to help my development."
The history of rookie wide receivers suggests that production could come as the season progresses. The top rookie receivers last season didn't emerge until November. Agholor said he doesn't pay attention to season splits. He just wants to see some type of improvement.
"If the results are what they are, at the end of the day you look at it and say, 'What did you do wrong?' " Agholor said.
Even when healthy, Agholor is noticeably tough on himself. He is not pleased with how the season has started, and he knows his improvement could help spur the offense.
"It hasn't been good enough in the beginning - that's the truth," Agholor said. "It needs to get better."
Running back Ryan Mathews (groin), linebacker DeMeco Ryans (hamstring), and tackle Jason Peters (back) missed practice. Mathews was a limited participant during Wednesday's practice, so his status has been downgraded this week. . . . Agholor, linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee), defensive end Brandon Bair (groin), and linebacker Bryan Braman (shoulder) were full participants at practice.