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Nelson Agholor driven to ‘play fast’ in second year of familiarity with Patriots

Nelson Agholor caught 37 passes for 473 yards and three touchdowns in 2021.

New England Patriots vs New York Jets Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Nelson Agholor enters the second half of his contract with the New England Patriots.

He does so with $5 million of his upcoming $9 million base salary fully guaranteed, and with a $14.882 million cap charge that currently ranks behind only outside linebacker Matthew Judon and tight end Hunter Henry on the roster.

But the finances aren’t at the forefront for the veteran wide receiver. Making the most of familiarity is.

“I don’t focus on that, you know?” Agholor said Tuesday during a video conference with the media. “I’m here for a reason and I love the opportunity that’s been given to me to be a Patriot, to work hard. The best part about it is Year 2 in the Patriots’ system is when guys really get going. I feel comfortable and I’m excited to have my best season with the Patriots and show why I’m here.”

Agholor caught 37 passes for 473 yards and three touchdowns during his initial season in New England. He appeared in 15 games, including 13 starts, and was twice ruled out due to a concussion.

“It’s behind us, but I would say that it went the way it was supposed to for me to grow,” Agholor reflected. “I can’t really look at it any other way. I needed to grow. I needed to adapt. I needed to be able to do what I wanted to do, and I think everything happens for a reason. I’m not going to get upset about this or that, because it’s in the past. What I do have in front of me is a really wonderful opportunity this year to be who I’m supposed to be and play the way I want to play.”

With a 40-time of 4.42 seconds and without a speed limit.

The downfield presence by way of the USC Trojans, Philadelphia Eagles and Las Vegas Raiders drew 64 targets last campaign. He averaged 14.5 targeted air yards per, according to Next Gen Stats, which stood behind only DeVonta Smith, Tyler Lockett, Donavan Peoples-Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and Marquez Valdez-Scantling among qualifiers around the NFL.

Agholor cited his continuity with the environment, the concepts and specifically the routes.

“I mean, everybody runs certain routes,” said Agholor. “But the route tree is a little bit different than what I ran before, and now I know it so I get to put my own spin on how we do things and play fast. I’m just growing, practicing, putting stuff on tape and being comfortable with it. ... Whereas a year ago, I was learning, so you do things at a certain learning tempo. You never just get to go full speed because you want to make sure you’re doing it right so you kind of move with caution.

“Now I know what it looks like and I get to just put my flavor on it. That’s the cool part about Year 2. You’ve done it, you’ve had a year of tape of it, now you self-study and just play fast.”

Agholor played 707 snaps last campaign. That total followed Jakobi Meyers yet preceded fellow March arrival Kendrick Bourne among New England’s wide receivers. Now the depth chart also features trade acquisition DeVante Parker from the Miami Dolphins and rookie second-round pick Tyquan Thornton from Baylor.

And a former No. 20 overall pick who will turn 29 during organized team activities later this May.

“I’m a competitor naturally,” added Agholor. “I love to play the game. When I have fun with the game and I have fun with the guys and play hard and practice hard, I do really well. I’m just in a happy, really happy place and super excited about the work that’s coming from being in that happy place and the growth that’s coming from it. My motivation is to make it a memorable season with this team and the guys that I play alongside and let it be something special.”