FOXBORO — When the New England Patriots signed Nelson Agholor to a two-year, $26 million contract in 2021, there was an expectation that he would add big-play ability.
However, year one in New England proved to be one of his worst seasons since being drafted in 2015.
After being a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Agholor spent five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one season with the Las Vegas Raiders. During his tenure with the Eagles, Agholor played a big part in beating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. In that game, he caught nine passes for 84 yards.
Now Agholor is focused on a bounce-back season with New England.
"We're still working to get better and working hard," Agholor said this week during training camp. "As players, we just have to go out there and make plays. I think I got comfortable with the system and it has put me in a position to play a little faster. My job is to run the routes that are called to the best of my ability."
Despite being the subject of trade rumors, the veteran wideout is having a solid camp. In fact, he just had his best day yet at Wednesday’s practice against the Carolina Panthers.
Agholor was on the receiving end of two notable touchdown passes from Mac Jones in red-zone drills against the Panthers' defense.
The first came just after a fight delayed the start of the Patriots’ first-team offensive drills with Jones lifting a perfect route into the left corner of the end zone for Agholor, who made a nice over-the-shoulder catch.
The second touchdown was even more thrilling.
Jones floated an end-zone fade route to a well-covered Agholor with two defenders in the area. But Agholor jumped over Jaycee Horn and Myles Hartsfield to make the grab on a ball that looked destined to fall incomplete or get picked off.
“Mac gave me an opportunity and put the ball in the air, and I just went to go get it,” Agholor said after practice. “That’s what we talk about in the receiver room and as an offense. If the quarterback gives you an opportunity, you got to do whatever to get it. It’s you or nobody.”
Agholor was Jones’ top target in 11-on-11 drills, catching all four passes thrown his way. Jones had plenty of praise for Agholor after Wednesday's joint practice:
“I don’t know that I’ve seen a receiver that understands football as well as he does. He’s like a quarterback.”
The veteran receiver has also continued agonizing Panthers defenders during 1-on-1s, winning easily with his quickness and speed.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also seems optimistic that a bounce-back season is coming for Agholor.
"A big jump," Belichick told reporters. "He was here all offseason, had a really good offseason. He’s productive. He had a really good spring of training. He came out here and made plays down the field, which is very important, but he’s also playing well in other areas. Very few mental errors. I think he’s looked good."
Agholor appears to be a lot more comfortable in the Patriots' offense, as he has made a case to be the most impressive receiver on the team this week.