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Can Eagles afford patience with rookies Agholor and Rowe?

If the state of the Eagles weren't so rotten, the lack of production from their top two draft picks would probably float under the radar.

Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor.Read more(Matt Rourke/AP)

If the state of the Eagles weren't so rotten, the lack of production from their top two draft picks would probably float under the radar.

But neither Nelson Agholor nor Eric Rowe has made a dent through 10 games, and with wide receiver and nickel defensive back trouble spots for the team, Chip Kelly could have used contributions from the rookies.

The Eagles coach was asked Monday if he was getting enough out of his first- and second-round draft selections.

"I think Nelson has been hurt, so that's part of what happened in terms of where he is," Kelly said. "And then we're starting to get Eric in there. He played outside corner for us in dime yesterday. . . . So we'll see where that goes as we continue to go through the season."

The Eagles have asked significantly more out of Agholor than Rowe. They really had no choice with limited resources at receiver. In the four games before he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 5, Agholor played 86 percent of snaps on offense.

He was slotted into the right receiver spot, where Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson preceded him, and given approximately the same amount of playing time. The Eagles didn't expect him to match Maclin and Jackson's production, but expectations are always high for a top pick and Agholor understandably failed to meet them.

"Too many people get caught up into the now," Agholor said this week. "I just got here from college. And now here I am trying to develop myself into an NFL receiver that not only does well, but does extremely well for the team."

Despite playing more than any other skill position player in the first four weeks, Agholor caught only seven passes for 100 yards over that span. He seemed poised to break out when he caught a 45-yard pass with one hand against the Redskins. But that highlight was offset by a fumble on a reverse, and a penalty that brought back a touchdown.

Agholor started again the next week, but he left midway through the Saints game with just one catch for five yards and the high ankle sprain. He missed the next three weeks. The Eagles won two of three while he was away, but almost in spite of the remaining outside receivers.

A group consisting of Riley Cooper, Miles Austin and Josh Huff caught an average of six passes for 83 yards during Agholor's three-game absence. Cooper was battling a foot injury, but Austin and Huff were invisible for long stretches.

There are multiple reasons why the Eagles have been unable to consistently complete passes downfield and outside the numbers. Sam Bradford has been reluctant at times to go deep. Offensive line instability has hindered protection. And the offense just hasn't been clicking.

But the talent level isn't there, and Agholor, like so many first-year receivers, hasn't yet been the answer. He could eventually, but right now he hasn't looked close to special. Since returning from injury, he's played 64 percent of the snaps and has six catches for 43 yards.

When Agholor has played, he's often had to face an opposing defense's top cornerback. Jordan Matthews is the unofficial No. 1 receiver, but he lines up primarily in the slot. There once was a time - say, just two years ago - when receivers were given time to develop. But last year's anomalous class of rookies may have altered expectations.

From 1999-2013, only five rookie receivers had eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in their first year. But there were three last year alone - Odell Beckham, Jr., Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin - and Sammy Watkins and Matthews were within 130 yards.

Of the six first-round receivers drafted this year, only the Raiders' Amari Cooper, who was chosen fourth overall, is projected to top 1,000 yards this season. There isn't another receiver in the rest of the draft who is remotely close.

"I wish I could have helped out more," Agholor said. "But you can't really control the story. . . . I think when the time is right, the story will tell itself. But I definitely believe that I belong in this league and as time goes on I'm going to progress to be the player that I'm meant to be."

Rowe didn't play a defensive snap until the third game, against the Jets, when he was pressed into playing outside in the dime defense after Chris Maragos left with an injury. He was targeted twice deep, but neither pass was completed and he intercepted one.

A week later, he filled in for the injured Byron Maxwell and held his own. He often played soft and the Redskins completed five passes when throwing at him, but Rowe didn't let anything get behind him.

But he didn't play a defensive snap with the first team for the next five games. There really was nowhere for him to play. Maxwell and Nolan Carroll are entrenched on the outside and safety Malcolm Jenkins was doing solid work in the slot. But veteran E.J. Biggers was ahead of Rowe as the sixth defensive back in the dime defense.

Last week, Rowe played six snaps in the dime. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis was asked why Rowe didn't get the nod ahead of Biggers, who took Jenkins' place inside against the Buccaneers.

"It happens quicker in the nickel spot, it really does," Davis said. "He even had a couple struggles in the dime out wide that I've got to get fixed. We're growing Eric about what we feel he's deserved and he's earned."

Carroll is in the last year of his contract. Rowe may start next season whether he's earned the job or not. He said he wasn't disappointed with his lack of playing time.

"You only go through one rookie year so I didn't know what to expect," Rowe said. "Of course, I wish I was playing more, but that's the patience that just has to come with it."

Patience the Eagles have been unable to afford.