PHILADELPHIA -- A well-regarded former Philadelphia Eagles player attended practice one day this spring and quickly became impressed with a receiver he was not familiar with.
"Wow. Who is number 13?" he asked.
It was a rare and fleeting moment of anonymity for the former first-round pick out of USC, who has come under fire following two disappointing seasons to start his pro career. Positive reports regarding the 24-year-old are largely met with an eye roll and a Wake me up when he does something when it counts-type of attitude, and understandably so. But if you strip away the back story and just judge performance, it's impossible to deny that Agholor was easily one of the standouts of the spring.
"He's always been an explosive guy, but boy, it sure seems like he might have gotten quicker and more explosive this offseason," said quarterback Carson Wentz. "He's getting open, making plays. It's good to see."
Agholor, working a good amount from the slot in Jordan Matthews' absence (knee tendinitis), had a couple nice snares on Thursday, including a touchdown grab over corner Aaron Grymes and a contested catch across the middle where he contorted his body and extended his arms to secure Wentz's laser of a pass -- a sight to see from a player who led all wideouts in drop rate a season ago (9.1 percent, per ESPN Stats & Information). He was on the receiving end of two long throws the day before as well, blowing past defenders to haul in 40-plus yard TDs.
Practice has never been the problem, though. Same goes for ability. The 20th overall pick in 2015, Agholor was looked at as one of the safest selections in the draft, a player who could contribute right away following a 104-catch, 1,300-plus yard, 12-touchdown performance as a junior at USC. Instead, he's managed just 59 catches, 648 yards and three TDs over two seasons. He openly acknowledged he was pressing last season and needed to get out of his own head. Coach Doug Pederson sat him for a game in hopes of providing that relief, but it turned out to be largely a lost year.
Pederson now sees a player in a better state of mind.
"A lot of times it's a personal. … You're going through a whole mental thought process and, ‘What can I do to get better?’ It's just him going out there and just attacking the day, and [wide receivers coach] Mike Groh has done a great job with him, just preparing him," he said. "The addition of Torrey [Smith] and Alshon [Jeffery], and sort of him kind of taking that step back and not [having] that pressure of every day having to perform has really helped him."
The big test, of course, is whether he'll be able to maintain the proper mindset and high level of play when the intensity ratchets up. All we can say at this point is that this is the best Agholor has looked since joining the pro ranks.