Nelson Agholor turns on his extra gear for TD

The question to Nelson Agholor was this: How did it feel scoring a touchdown the first time you ever touched the football in an NFL game?

But Agholor corrected the questioner.

"The first time I touched it," Agholor said, "it was actually a drop, an incompletion."

Indeed, Agholor got his hands on a hard-to-catch pass over the middle early in the Eagles' 36-10, preseason-opening win over the Colts on Sunday. But to call it a drop - he actually had one of those later - would be a misnomer.

But that's the Eagles' top draft pick. While many, at a position known for its divas, would have focused on the highlight in their professional debut, Agholor said he couldn't get the two passes he didn't catch out of his head.

"At the end of the day, that's more on my mind than the [touchdown]," he said.

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But what a touchdown. Mark Sanchez threw a quick toss to Agholor, who ran a short hitch route outside. The pass was high, but Agholor extended and caught it, and when he turned upfield, Colts cornerback Greg Tolar had overrun the play.

Some receivers might have scooted out of bounds. Some might have run and been caught. But Agholor turned on the jets. When safety Mike Adams came down to help, he took a bad angle - perhaps not realizing the receiver's speed - and Agholor zoomed into the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown.

"I'm not the fastest guy in the world," Agholor said. "Some days, guys won't be able to tackle me. On that play, I continued to finish hard and got away."

Agholor might not be the fastest - he ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine - but he's fast enough and seems to have an extra gear that translates on the field. His teammates say they've seen it since the former Southern Cal star arrived in May.

"When you talk about running straight forward, my boy Nelson goes zero to one hundred," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "He does it day in and day out. He is explosive in practice. That cat has speed. He runs on every single catch, so it's no surprise when he takes a hitch to the house like that."

It was one play in one preseason game. Agholor wasn't perfect, as he modestly pointed out. But after two offseasons in which Chip Kelly let two receivers walk after Pro Bowl seasons, Agholor and the steady development of Matthews suggest the Eagles will be fine at the position.

It has become increasingly clear that they should get the most snaps at receiver once the season starts. Riley Cooper and Josh Huff have been the starters outside at camp, and they will have their roles, along with veteran Miles Austin, but it will be difficult to keep Matthews and Agholor off the field. "We are not putting any labels on nothing, none of that 1's, 2's or 3's," Matthews said diplomatically.

Matthews will still play primarily in the slot, but it really doesn't matter which receiver is playing where. Receivers were open repeatedly against the Colts. Kelly's offense is still a well-oiled machine. And when Sam Bradford (presumably) plays, there will be an accurate quarterback who takes advantage.

And if he doesn't at times, he has two receivers in Matthews and Agholor that are capable of bailing him out.

"You can see when he has the ball in his hands he's a dynamic player," Kelly said of Agholor. "What you saw today is one of the reasons we drafted him so high."

Agholor caught two other passes and finished the day with three grabs for 57 yards. The one he did actually drop came in the second quarter when Matt Barkley threw a strike to him near the sideline.

On Saturday, Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell said he was going to show Agholor and the other rookies tape of Matthews' three drops in his preseason debut last year to show that it can happen and that it can also have no bearing on the season.

Agholor said Bicknell didn't show it. The assistant coach has used nearly every other tool in teaching the receiver, though.

"I think if you asked Nelson truthfully right now what he thinks of me - he's just, 'God, almighty, that guy's driving me nuts,' " Bicknell said. "I think there's a lot of moments that he's questioning. I hope there is. I want it to be right now."

As in Sunday's game, Agholor hasn't been consistent in practice. But Bicknell said that when he has had a bad day, he has rebounded the next.

"He coaches in a special way and he stays on me, no room to breathe, and I respect that," Agholor said of Bicknell.

NFL players are schooled on how to say the right thing the right way, but Agholor speaks with sincerity. It doesn't feel disingenuous. It is early, but he had a promising start. Agholor, though, harped on the mistakes.

"At the end of the day, I like that that happened today," Agholor said. "It's a good thing to learn from."


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane