'Fire lit' under Eagles' Nelson Agholor, who faces a make-or-break season

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson believes a fire has been lit under receiver Nelson Agholor.

He credits new receivers coach Mike Groh for the spark, and the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason for fanning the flame.

"As I've said all along, competition, man, sharpens you," said Pederson as OTAs opened Tuesday. "And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring."

Agholor sported a new look as the players took the practice field moments after Pederson was done speaking. He gave up his old number 17 to Jeffery, opting for a fresh start with a No. 13 jersey previously worn by the departed Josh Huff. It would be a stretch to say Agholor looked like a different player -- a better version of his old self might be more appropriate. His speed and fluidity stood out. He moved with confidence and purpose and appeared to catch everything that was thrown his way.

That's not a description that would fit in last year's evaluation of Agholor. The 24-year-old struggled through some serious confidence issues. Following a critical miscue during a loss in Seattle in November, Agholor acknowledged the "mental battle" he was dealing with on the field.

"I've got to get out of my own head," he said.

The decision was made to deactivate him the following week against the Green Bay Packers in hopes of getting him back on track. It proved to be a lost season, however. Agholor finished with 36 catches on 70 targets for 365 yards with two touchdowns. He had the third-worst drop rate in the league (9.1 percent).

The 20th overall pick out of USC in 2015, Agholor was widely viewed as one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft, with an expectation that he would be able to produce at a reasonably-high level right out of the gates. That proved to be a lesson in the difficulty of forecasting, as Agholor has just 59 catches for 648 yards and three touchdowns over two seasons despite ample playing time. Following Tuesday's practice, Agholor reflected on how he got off track.

"I think I was worried about taking such a large leap in a day. It's all about getting better consistently each day, even if it's just a little bit," he said. "Some of the best players in this league, they didn't just become really great the first day they're there. It took a process and continuous progression every day, so that's my focus right now."

But he now faces an uphill climb because of his slow start. Due in part to his lack of production, the Eagles dedicated a good portion of their resources this offseason to bolstering a receiving corps that finished second-to-last in receiving yards and last in drop rate in 2016, per ESPN Stats & Information. They signed Jeffery to a one-year deal worth up to $14 million, signed Smith to a three-year, $15 million contract and selected receivers Mack Hollins of UNC and Shelton Gibson of West Virginia in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Add in Jordan Matthews, and that's a rather crowded wide receiver picture.

The question becomes whether the positive signs that Agholor is showing this spring will translate to the fall, and if he can overcome the competition around him and the demons that have hampered him to realize his potential in Year 3. This is very much a make-or-break year for him, at least as it pertains to his time in Philadelphia.

"Do I feel like [I'm fighting for a roster spot]? I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team," he said, "and that takes care of it right there. I want to be a guy, when you watch him on tape, you're like, 'Yeah, I need him.' It don't matter about a roster spot. The best players play and I want to be one of the best players, and that's what I focus on every day."