Genard Avery on Sunday Night Football finally showed why the Eagles parted ways with a fourth-round pick to get him last year.
Against the 49ers, Avery had a sack and five quarterback hits in just 16 snaps.
“That was sort of the breakout game we've been waiting for from him,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He's always been a skilled pass rusher. It's just fitting him in with all the other stuff. I think he's really done a good job of refining his technique and limiting his — sticking with what works best for him.”
Schwartz explained that Avery actually had too many pass rush moves and DL coach Matt Burke and senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn worked with him to figure out what he did best.
It’s also worth noting that Schwartz is figuring out how to use him better too. And it’s not just as a third-down pass rush specialist as many probably envisioned. Many of his snaps on Sunday came on early downs.
After experimenting with how to use Avery last season, Schwartz played him as a stand up end on Sunday night in the breakout game. Nine of his snaps came from the left side and seven from the right.
“He certainly made a difference in this game,” Schwartz said. “He was fresh when he came off the bench, which is a big thing for our guys that are coming off the bench, and he gave us that changeup and made some big plays for us in the game.”
Of his 16 snaps on Sunday, I have singled out seven to take a closer look at. We’ll go through all five of his QB hits as well as two other plays I think are notable.
They are listed in chronological order, but stick around. His last play was one of his best:
This play is early in the second quarter on a 2nd-and-7. On this play, Avery comes unblocked and is pretty surprised when George Kittle doesn’t block him. Avery probably could have gotten their quicker if he didn’t stutter but he still puts a lick on Nick Mullens for his first of five QB hits. Kittle breaks a tackle and goes for a big gain. Oh well.
This play is a little later on that series on a 2nd-and-10. The 49ers show play action here with a run left but Avery is able to use his quickness to get inside the guard and crash the A-gap. He isn’t fooled by the play action either. From here, it is a race to the quarterback with Javon Hargrave.
This was the first full sack of Avery’s Eagles career. Avery got to the QB in 2.77 seconds, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. It was tied for the fifth-quickest sack of the weekend in the league.
This play is a 2nd-and-7 with the 49ers in the red zone and leads to a huge interception, the Eagles’ first defensive takeaway on the season.
Avery catches the right tackle, Mike McGlinchey with some poor technique, lunging at him. So Avery uses his hands to get around the former first-round pick and get after Mullens to force him to release early.
“His pressure led to the first interception, which I think was a huge play in that game,” Schwartz said, “sort of maybe flies below the radar when the game is all said and done. They were driving. They were in the red zone. We got that pressure, got that interception, and I think that that was a key turning point in that game.”
This is a run play is the red zone in the third quarter. This doesn’t show up in the stat sheet but Avery’s play is a good one. He’s able to use his quickness and pull off a swim move to beat Trent Williams inside. Because he beats Williams, then the fullback has to take Avery down instead of the charging linebacker.
Even though Duke Riley can’t make the tackle, this whole series has slowed the running back down and taken away the outside. Now the back is funneled inside and is held for a short gain.
This is the very next play. Avery gets blocked by Kittle as Mullens rolls to that side. Eventually, Kittle peels off and Avery is able to get a hit on Mullens, who floated the ball to Kittle for a short gain.
You might notice a receiver free in the end zone but Mullens was never going to get to that in his progressions and he doesn’t have that throw in his bag, especially not with the pressure of Hargrave and then Avery coming.
Now it’s the fourth quarter and the Eagles are going to use a simple tackle-end stunt. Fletcher Cox crashes and Avery is the looper. The 49ers actually do a great job of picking this up. Because of how much attention Cox warrants, the center is helping on that side. So as Avery loops to attack the A-gap, the center picks him up and gives Mullens a clean pocket.
So this stunt didn’t work but you can still see how quick Avery was as the looper. Remember this play because the Eagles will probably keep trying him on these kinds of stunts. If they find ways to get Avery free, he’s really quick and can get to the QB in a hurry. If Cox is on the other side and it was Ridgeway next to him, there’s a better chance of this working.
This is Avery’s last snap of the game and it comes with just 17 seconds on the clock. It’s my favorite play of his from Sunday because it shows his potential as well as how well the rotation worked. Because the whole design of this defensive line is to keep their players fresh and Avery had played just 15 snaps at this point.
After showing speed all game, Avery has McGlinchey on his heels. Instead of punching, the former first-round pick was passive and it plays right into what Avery wanted to do. No, he’s not the biggest guy but at 6-0, 250, Avery is compact and packs a powerful punch. He just pulls off a power move right through the 315-pound offensive tackle, picks up his fifth QB hit and forces the incompletion.