Genard Avery played 10 defensive snaps for the Eagles on Sunday against the Patriots, which might not sound like a lot.
But coming into the Patriots game, he had played just eight snaps all season.
The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to Cleveland for Avery on Oct. 28 and now three weeks and two games into his time in Philly, we’re getting a better sense of how the Eagles plan on using him.
He's a bit of a hybrid player, and when we got him, we needed to have a specific plan for the way we were going to use him,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.
“First week we used him just a little bit, used him a little bit more as a defensive end in this last game, but we've used him as a hybrid linebacker in there, also. He's done a nice job working really hard to make the most of his opportunities when he's been out there.
Avery was thought to be a third-down pass rusher for the Eagles, but that’s what’s interesting about his snaps on Sunday. Four of them were on third down, but three came on first downs and three came on second downs.
And while most of his snaps came as a stand-up edge rusher, the Eagles also used him as a hybrid/blitzing linebacker as Schwartz alluded to.
Let’s take a closer look:
This play came on a 3rd-and-10 in the second quarter. Avery (No. 58) is lined up on the left side of the defensive line as a stand-up rusher in the uneven front. He loops around Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox to bring pressure up the gut. Center Ted Karras doubles Cox off the snap and since Avery shoots through the gap like a bullet, Karras barely slows him down.
The Patriots ended up converting here thanks to a DPI, but Avery forced Tom Brady into an early throw off his back foot.
If you think that play looked familiar, you’re right. It looked a lot like this play from the Bears game two weeks ago:
This time, Avery was lined on the right side of the Eagles’ uneven defensive front. But again, he loops around two linemen to come up the gut. The center shades toward Cox here again, which the Eagles can use either way because it’s still going to leave space for Avery to come through an A gap.
It’s his quickness that makes Avery so impressive. It’s hard for a rusher to loop that far and still get to the quarterback that quickly.
Back to the Patriots game, this play came on a 2nd-and-3 and Avery is lined up as a stand-up edge on the left side of the line. The Patriots chip block him with a tight end and then Brady dumps it off to that same tight end. But it looks like Avery, while speed rushing, was able to get a fingertip on the ball and slightly change its trajectory.
And then there are the plays where Avery is being used as a hybrid linebacker. Avery doesn’t spend any time in the linebackers room, so he’s strictly acting like a linebacker in these situations -- at least for now.
You’ll notice that on this play, Avery is a stand-up interior rusher. He’ll get blocked by the left guard, but it looks like there will be future opportunities for stunts from this type of formation. On the other side, we see Graham take the same loop Avery took earlier in the game. Remember, Avery is kind of built like a slightly smaller scale Graham.
On this last play, Avery looks like a ‘backer but blitzes (slightly delayed) off the snap along with Gerry, who draws the center. Good pickup by the tight end on this play to stop Avery on his rush.
It was a little curious when the Eagles shipped a fourth-round draft pick to the Browns for a guy we all understood would be a situational pass rusher, especially because they’ve used fourth-round picks in each of the last two years on defensive ends Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller.
But Avery had a 4 1/2-sack rookie season with the Browns and is a pretty good player with two years on his rookie contract after this season. The scheme change is why he couldn't get on the field in Cleveland. Now, it’s really up to Schwartz to figure out how to use him, something the defensive coordinator said he doesn’t find stressful.
“Every game is a little bit different, every game plan is a little bit different,” Schwartz said. “But guys that can run, guys that play with a high level of intensity and enthusiasm and guys that are smart and prepare well and guys that can either cover or rush the passer, man, we can find spots for all these guys.”
We’re starting to see how Avery fits.
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