The Eagles will spend the week considering what to do about struggling wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and the options include benching or reducing the role of the 2015 first-round pick in Monday's game against the Green Bay Packers.
Rookie Paul Turner was signed from the practice squad on Monday, giving the Eagles another player they could use at the position. And although Turner was a preseason standout, it's not a coincidence that he finally received his promotion one day after Agholor caused a costly illegal formation penalty and dropped another catchable pass in a 26-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to go forward," said coach Doug Pederson, cautioning that it was a personal opinion and not yet the team's decision. "In that way, too, you can begin to clear your head and see it where you don't have the pressure of performing on you all the time."
Clearing Agholor's head is an objective because he apparently has a fragile psyche following a series of subpar performances. After failing to record a catch even though he took 70 offensive snaps, Agholor told reporters he must "get out of my own head." He added that he's "pressing too much," is "worried about so many things," and is "feeing so pressured to make every single thing." Pederson plans to discuss those feelings with Agholor this week.
"Those are definitely concerns that I have, now that he's obviously come out and said that publicly," Pederson said. "My concern is for him as an individual, as a person, and I want to make sure that he's in a good spot."
Agholor's potential, his status as a first-round pick, and $9.377 million contract make releasing him an unlikely resort. If the Eagles wanted to make a notable change, it would involve listing him among the seven inactive players or significantly reducing his playing time.
Pederson said the conversations he will have Agholor this week will include managing the pressure that comes from reporters and fans, which was exacerbated by the expectations for Agholor upon his arrival. He was not an anonymous, undrafted player who tried to make the roster. He was the No. 20 overall pick who has started 21 of 23 games he played in his career. He has taken 85 percent of the offensive snaps this season and has only 27 catches for 264 yards and one touchdown.
Agholor's second-year struggles stretch back to the preseason, when drops became a story line. Since then, Pederson has offered unwavering public support. Even after Agholor's disastrous performance Sunday, Pederson said he would "continue to encourage and keep putting him out there." This is part of Pederson's philosophy in dealing with players, and it has been tested with Agholor. Pederson resists public rebukes or displays of dissatisfaction.
"There's enough pressure to win and to perform in this game," Pederson said. "It's my job to encourage. It's my job to teach and instruct and get our guys to game day. . . . I can individually talk to guys and pull guys aside, but at the same time, part of my job is to encourage them, too, and to support them and to get them better. We get paid to teach, because there's a lot of negative out there. I want to make sure that they've got positive from me and from the staff."
But in this instance, it might be prudent to focus on what Pederson does instead of what he says. The Eagles cut cornerback Aaron Grymes to promote Turner. With cornerback depth a concern, the Eagles wouldn't have made such a move if they didn't feel it was necessary to have an extra wide receiver on the roster. In all 10 games this season, they've had four wide receivers active. So if the Eagles dress Turner on Sunday, they would likely deactivate a receiver who usually plays.
Pederson said a decision on what to do about Turner and Agholor will be made later this week. He wants to see how Turner does in practice, and he also wants to speak with Agholor.
"I'm going to wait until after I talk with Nelson," Pederson said. "I'm going to wait and see where we're at during the week and make that decision down later in the week because we've got a longer week."
When the Eagles begin practicing on Wednesday, Pederson said Agholor would still mix in with the first-team offense. But that might not be the case when the Packers visit.
The Eagles like how Agholor is practicing and preparing for games, and there have never been concerns about his work ethic or desire since he came to Philadelphia. But they need to figure out how to get past the mental block that is derailing a career that was already developing slowly.
"I've seen him trying to just do things a little out of character for him, and that's obviously a sign that maybe things are not going well for him," Pederson said. "As athletes, you've got to let the game sort of come to you, and I feel like he's maybe pressing just a little bit and trying to do things - and he's doing everything right."