Eagles

Eagles

Genard Avery is sort of the forgotten man of the Eagles’ defense, and for good reason. 

The Eagles shipped a 4th-round pick to Cleveland in the middle of last season and then Avery barely played once he arrived to Philly. In total, he played just 33 total defensive snaps for the Eagles last year. 

While that output was disappointing, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said when the Eagles traded for Avery they realized it wouldn’t pay off immediately, that they needed an offseason with him for Avery to reach his potential in the defense. But obviously this was no ordinary offseason. 

Now, with less than a month to go before the start of the 2020 season, it’s fair to wonder what kind of role Avery, whom Jim Schwartz called a “hybrid” player last year — will have with the Eagles this season. 

He’s playing defensive end right now for us in the rotation,” DL coach Matt Burke said last week. “I think that’s part of the evaluation of all these guys. What’s their level of capability fitting into some of the scheme things we’re asking them to do. And if not, whatever that answer is, our job as coaches, I believe is always to take the skillsets of your players and maximize them and get the best out of them and put them in positions to be successful. 

“One of the things we always talk about with our ends and playing on the edge is building power with speed. He is an explosive player. He is an explosive lower body athlete. And he is powerful in a different way than some other guys are powerful.

 

Yeah, at 6-foot, 250 pounds, Avery is not built like your run-of-the-mill defensive end. 

But he also has some juice. 

“I think that boy is fast off that rock, somebody whose confidence is boosted, especially from him coming in last year, having to learn on the fly,” Brandon Graham said. “I feel like he’s coming into his own right now. Once we get on the pads, we can really see who’s gonna separate themselves.” 

Really, this offseason with Avery was probably less about him learning the defense than it was about the defensive coaches figuring out how to use him. Because to simply put Avery out there as a rotational defensive end is pretty much a waste. It’s up to the coaches to use his unique set of skills in a way that helps him and the team. And that means entering games with a plan on how to use him in specific situations. 

Let’s take a look back at his limited snaps from 2019 to get some hints: 

On this play, the Eagles lined up Avery as a stand-up rusher in an uneven front. Avery loops around Graham and Fletcher Cox to get some pressure up the gut. This was some solid pressure and one of the many ways they used Avery. 

Same thing here. This was against the Bears and Avery got half a sack on Mitchell Trubisky, looping from an OLB in an uneven front to get pressure up the middle. He took a shortcut here through the A gap. 

 

This play was pretty wild because Avery actually lines up as a standup DT going against the RG. This play obviously didn’t work for the Eagles but you can envision a scenario where Avery lines up inside and gets sprung to the outside with a stunt. 

 

This was one of my favorite snaps from Avery last season. It came against the Giants in the regular season finale. On this one, he’s a standup DE going against LT Nate Solder. No, Solder isn’t a great player but he’s an established tackle in the NFL. Solder here has to respect Avery’s speed so instead Avery is able to break inside and get Solder off-balance to the point where he ends up on his backside. The prevailing thought with Avery is that, sure, he’s quick but if an NFL tackle gets his hands on him, it’s over. That wasn’t the case here. Avery used his quickness and his leverage to win on this rep. He won’t be able to do that every time, but this was impressive. 

Another one from the Patriots game. This time Avery lines up like an inside ‘backer but comes on a delayed blitz. It was a nice pickup by the tight end but it’s another example of how Avery can be used. 

 

This final play came against the Giants. At the snap, Avery is lined up as an extra rusher in an uneven front. But this ends up being a zone blitz. Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham provide the pressure as Avery drops into coverage against Saquon Barkley on a wheel route. The pressure blew up the play but Avery does a nice job sticking with Barkley down the field in a less-than-ideal situation. 

•••

So even though he played just 33 defensive snaps last season, Avery lined up all over the defense and took on many different roles. If nothing else, that should have given Schwartz some ideas of how to use him in his defense. 

“I think one of the things we’ve gone through this offseason has been kind of showing different types of players in our scheme, guys who have had success but are different body types,” Burke said. “If you look across our whole D-line room, they all look different. That’s the thing that we kind of emphasize.”

The Eagles gave up a 4th-round pick to get Avery and he still has two years left on his rookie contract, so it’s unlikely they cut him after this training camp. And he might actually be able to help them in 2020 … but it’s up to the coaching staff to figure out how to use him. 

 

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