Film Session: A Look at How Nelson Agholor Has Preserved the Raiders Banged-Up Offense

It wasn’t much of a surprise when Raiders GM Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden selected a wide receiver in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After watching the trade for former wide receiver Antonio Brown implode, Gruden set out to secure a lethal “Z” receiver that would open up his offense. While some fans may have questioned the receiver chosen, there was little debate that Henry Ruggs III would bring a much needed infusion of speed to an offense that could desperately use a play-maker on the outside.

Fast forward to the start of the season and it still seems the Raiders just can’t have nice things. Henry Ruggs has been hobbled by both knee and hamstring injuries that have kept him out of the last two games. This year, however, the loss of his starting “Z” hasn’t limited the offense as it did last year thanks to Gruden securing another first-round pick as a back-up plan.

Nelson Agholor was the 20th overall selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2015 NFL Draft. After racking up 224 receptions for 2,515 and 18 touchdowns over five seasons, the former USC Trojan found a new home with the Silver and Black. Even though his addition didn’t garner much fan fare, it didn’t take long for his signing to pay off.

Bunch Right Mesh from 11-Personnel

Gruden inserted Agholor at the “Z” following Ruggs initial injury during their week 1 contest against the Carolina Panthers. He capitalized on the opportunity and showed off his 4.42 speed. He ran the wheel route in this mesh concept while Derek Carr hit him perfectly in stride. Nelson would finish the game with only this 23-yard touchdown on the stat sheet, but the deep threat he provided kept the Panthers defense honest.

Nelson’s speed and burst were apparent as he beat the defensive back off the line, stacking him with ease. What also stands out is Agholor’s concentration and ability to haul in this pass with a defender in such close proximity. His hands were consistently being questioned and were a big reason for his exit from Philadelphia. Credit to him for putting in the work as well as Gruden’s ability to see through the media narrative to the talent Agholor really has.

I trust him and I think he was picked high in the draft for a reason,” Gruden said of Agholor after the team signed him. “He’s a good player. You can pick up the Philadelphia Inquirer and they will probably say something different, but this guy has caught over 200 passes, he’s a young guy, he has played split end, flanker and in the slot. He caught eight or nine passes in a Super Bowl and won a Super Bowl. So he’s a world champion. He’s a great person.”

Like anyone playing a team sport, Agholor’s contributions to the Raiders offense extend beyond the box score. His 8 receptions for 118 yards (14.8 avg) and two touchdowns pale in comparison to the impact his presence has on opposing defenses (and how that has helped his teammates). This play from Sundays contest against the Buffalo Bills was a prime example of his speed being used to open space for others in the passing game.

Zebra 364 Sword

Gruden runs “Sword” on 3rd and 11, with Agholor and Zay Jones. The concept is designed for Agholor to run a “Special” route to pull the safeties deep while Hunter Renfrow runs a “Shallow” crossing route to pull the linebackers toward the line of scrimmage. Those routes combine to open space between the second and third levels of the defense for Jones to run a “Dig” route. It works as intended with Jones securing the catch for 17-yards and a first down.

Secondaries are simply unable to sit on shallow routes like they could during the 2019 season when the Raiders lacked a true vertical threat to threaten defensive backs. They now have one in Nelson Agholor.

Special vs Cover-3

This touchdown pass to Agholor was called back for an illegal formation, but it highlights his big play capability and serves to put opposing defenses on notice. Even playing this deep Cover-3 with the middle safety sitting 17 yards from the line of scrimmage didn’t prevent Algholor from flying past him. Gruden and Mayock’s ability to identify and sign a player to provide depth for such a unique and valuable role has paid dividends and has kept the Raider offense humming.

Time will tell just how long rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs is sidelined but having a talent like Agholor has certainly helped soften the blow of his absence. The Raiders head out to face the hated Kansas City Chiefs this weekend and if the defense continues it’s struggles against the Chiefs vaunted offense, the Raiders will need some explosive passing plays to keep pace. Fortunately we know they have a legitimate threat in Agholor, regardless of what the Philadelphia Inquirer might say.

Twitter: @ChrisReed_NFL

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1 thought on “Film Session: A Look at How Nelson Agholor Has Preserved the Raiders Banged-Up Offense

  1. Calling back a touchdown on an illegal formation call is just ridiculous. They really need to retool the rules because if something doesn’t affect the play then it shouldn’t be a penalty. Just a stupid rule.

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