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Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor continues to look primed for second-year leap

Related: 4 winners and 4 losers from the Patriots’ second joint practice with the Panthers

NFL: JUL 28 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nelson Agholor’s first year in New England did not steal the show. After signing a two-year, $22 million contract last offseason, he posted just 473 yards and three touchdowns.

Entering Year 2, Agholor’s future with the Patriots was questionable due to his contract’s structure. Plus, with the addition of second-round pick Tyquan Thornton, who shares a similar skillset as the veteran, many thought Agholor could be moved.

While trading him would help the Patriots in the finance books, he’s proving a potential move could hurt them on the field. Agholor has been the team’s best receiver at times throughout training camp. That was again the case against the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, where he highlighted his strong showing by hauling in a slot fade over three Carolina defenders in the end zone.

“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.”

In their second year together, Agholor and Jones continue to show their chemistry, one they have spent the last calendar year building.

“We’ve been having conversations since last year continuously. How do things look? What’s going on? We also have a really good friendship that allows us to talk about things like what went right, what could’ve been better. I love the fact that we have an open line of dialect back and forth,” Agholor said.

As for Jones, he spoke highly of Agholor’s football knowledge.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a receiver who understands football as well as he does in terms of just general knowledge,” Jones told reporters Wednesday. “He’s almost like a quarterback out there. We put in a lot of work together in the offseason. He was at all the throwing sessions. That’s what we are trying to grow from.”

On Wednesday, the highlight-reel snag was just the start of his day. Agholor caught another touchdown from Jones on a similar route out of the slot, beating Myles Hartfield. He also shook free from a pair of Panther defenders in 1-on-1 drills and drew a hold later on.

After lining up in the slot for just 65 snaps last year, compared to 691 out wide, Agholor has often worked out of the slot this summer. He’s had success working out there as of late as his familiarity within the system continues to increase in his sophomore campaign as a Patriot.

“Whatever I need to do to help out and show versatility. Inside, outside, it doesn’t matter,” Agholor explained. “I think I’m more comfortable this year than last year. More familiar. But just like any other year I’m just trying to get better.”

Despite the strong early returns of offseason additions DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton, trading Agholor may not be the best move for New England. While the $14.9 million cap hit is one thing, the 29-year-old has proven his ability to make plays at an important position in the NFL. He should also continue to be a prime benefactor of the Patriots’ “streamlined” offense.

Agholor does not see the crowded wide receiver room as competition, but rather as a chance to elevate his growth as a receiver.

“It’s actually what you need,” Agholor said. “Growth happens when there’s competition within the group and competition across the ball. I know those guys are going to make a play every opportunity they get, so it reminds me any opportunity I get to make a play.”