As Eagles minicamp wrapped up, Jordan Matthews was asked about first-year wide receivers coach Mike Groh. Matthews had a lot to say about how Groh has helped the group, but he prefaced his remarks by explaining that in praising Groh, he wasn’t trying to reflect negatively on former receivers coach Greg Lewis.
Lewis, the only Eagles wide receiver ever to score a Super Bowl touchdown, got the coaching job last year when Doug Pederson was hired as head coach, because Lewis was a former player who’d had success in several college stops. He’d spent just one year in NFL coaching, as an assistant to the Saints’ wide receivers coach in 2015. The Eagles thought Lewis’ youth – he was 36 – and his resume would help him relate to their young, unaccomplished group, and players seemed fond of Lewis. But we all know how the season went – drops and struggles and 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor basically melting into a puddle.
Groh, 45, has a much more extensive coaching background, in college and the NFL, where he coached Bears wideouts for three years before spending last season as passing-game coordinator and wideouts coach with the Los Angeles Rams. He comes off as more of a technician, and a stickler for details, an approach that seems to be producing results.
Agholor, in particular, seems to have benefited.
“I think he’s had a really productive spring,” Groh said Friday. “He’s attacked the spring. He’s shown up and made an impact in virtually every practice. I’m really excited about where he’s at.”
Agholor hasn’t been drop-prone so far this year. Groh said Agholor has responded well to his format of trying “to simulate a game in everything we do.” Groh said he went “back to basics” with Agholor and all the other receivers. He said Agholor is “a first-round pick with first-round talent.”
What did he do to boost Agholor’s confidence?
“Confidence is a result of demonstrated performance,” Groh said. “The more positive results that he has in practice, I think that’ll elevate his confidence. He’s had a really good spring from that standpoint.”
“We’re trying to build a foundation of things that I think are really important, that might not have been emphasized by the previous coach,” Groh said. “That doesn’t mean it’s better; that just means it’s different.”
Subjects such as “stance, release, and attacking the football” Groh said, are addressed “on a consistent basis.”
“It all starts with our stance. That’s the core for a receiver, and really anybody in the game of football,” said Groh, whose father, Al, is a former NFL and college head coach. “Trying to find a really good, explosive stance” is one of the things Groh said he is working on with underachieving wideout Dorial Green-Beckham.
“Everybody’s (stance is) going to be a little bit different, like a golf swing,” Groh said. “We want to create power off the line of scrimmage, and we want to be efficient with our movement, eliminate false steps. Obviously, play with our eyes up and things like that. Things that seem really simple, but you can fall into bad habits pretty quickly. … A little thing in your foot placement or your knee bend can change your explosion off the ball.”
Groh says his receivers work a lot on releases.
“We try to be efficient with our movement, coordinating hands and feet, and then stuff at the top of the route. Because in this league, you either win at the line of scrimmage, or you win at the top of the route,” he said. “So that’s where we spend a lot of our time.”
In Chicago, Groh coached Alshon Jeffery, the most potent receiving weapon the Eagles added this offseason.
“He knows what I think and I understand the way he works and goes about his business,” Groh said of Jeffery. “I think the spring that he’s had is as good as he’s had since maybe 2013. I’m pleased with where he is physically. Mentally, I think he’s in a good place. He’s come in here and he’s learned a new system. Working on the chemistry with Carson (Wentz), everything like that, but it’s been a good spring for him.”