As part of their efforts to rebuild a struggling passing attack this offseason, the New England Patriots also invested in former first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor. The team signed Agholor to a two-year contract in free agency, and he will now bring an element of deep threat ability and positional versatility to the table.
On Thursday, following his second training camp practice as a Patriot, the 28-year-old spoke to reporters. One point that was brought up was his ability to align all over the formation.
Agholor noted that learning full concepts and not just his responsibilities was part of his developmental process. In general, he appeared to be pretty pleased with having joined an offense that places value on versatility.
“I think that’s one of the cool things we do here in New England,” he said. “We like to move guys around and put guys in a position to run a variation of routes.”
His remarks came after head coach Bill Belichick also touched on the topic during his own press conference on Thursday. Belichick was asked about Agholor specifically, but he also mentioned a general ability to do multiple things within his team’s scheme and how all that relates to New England’s team building considerations.
“If one player can do multiple things and nobody else can, then it’s hard to move one guy without moving somebody else. It just really depends on what the overall makeup of the skill group is and obviously that plays into situations and formations and game plans and so forth, but generically we try to teach our guys multiple spots at all positions, not just the receiver position,” Belichick said.
“Not knowing game plan needs or roster needs, not being able to anticipate those during the regular season... If we have to create our own depth from our roster, we have some ability to do that or at least we know what our ability is. If we know a guy can go to a different spot, then we don’t want to waste time with that in the regular season. We find some other way to do it.”
The Patriots have always valued players capable of doing more than one thing or playing beyond the scope of their listed positions. Wide receiver/punt returner/quarterback/defensive back/running back Julian Edelman is one prominent recent example, but the list of versatile players is a long one across all positions.
Agholor may not fall into the same category as Edelman when it comes to versatility. However, he has shown himself more than capable of lining up in the perimeter and the slot throughout his career in the NFL.
Belichick also mentioned this part of his game on Thursday.
“Nelson has shown a lot of versatility here,” he said.
How it all will work out within the context of the Patriots’ new-look wide receiver room remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. The more you can do, the more valuable you are, the better your chances at making the roster. Agholor is a lock based on his contract status, but other players in all three phases of the game have to follow his example and show that they can help in more ways than one.
Versatility, after all, remains a key ingredient in New England’s roster construction process.