‘WHO?!’ That was probably the reaction by most fans who just a day before the NFL trade deadline, saw the Eagles trade a fourth-round pick for Browns DE Genard Avery. The price seemed high at first glance, but it didn’t take long to understand the intent. Just one game into his Eagles tenure, the early signs point towards seeing a substantial return on that investment.
Avery was a sixth-round rookie in 2018 who actually had a really productive season, registering 4.5 sacks and 40 tackles. He spent most of this year as a healthy scratch for the Browns in a new scheme where he just didn’t seem to fit too well.
“Mainly the exposure I had was last year as a rookie he did some productive things.” Jim Schwartz explained last week. “He gave them some speed off the edge, was a productive sacker, he wasn’t playing very much this year so it’s hard to — and they changed schemes. So a lot of times that happens when you have guys that are sort of successful in one scheme, there’s a coaching change, they maybe fit one scheme better than another. But we’re excited to have him and he’s done some good things pass rushing and we’ll try to get him up to speed as quick as we can on stuff like that.”
Contrast that to Sunday’s win over the Bears where despite only being with his new team for a matter of days, Avery played in 59% of special teams snaps and 7% on defense, and it’s safe to say the Grass is already looking greener. What’s interesting though is the way in which he was deployed. it was only a brief flash, but the Eagles weren’t using Avery as a standard defensive end…and this could be the catalyst for change the team needed.
The 6’1, 225 lbs, pass-rusher registered half a sack during his Eagles debut but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. He had 21.5 to his name at Memphis and as aforementioned, sack-production followed him to Cleveland initially. The most exciting part is that this is only one game where the leash would have been tight.
With depth at DT low and linebacker production lacking, a hybrid player who spent most of his rookie season as a stand-up DE, and can drop back into coverage and make plays around the ball, felt like a cheat code in reconnecting the link between the pass-rush and linebacker group.
If the Eagles continue to use Avery in a similar way to the role in which he flourished in 2018, then there’s no reason he can’t rapidly become an important piece of the defense as the season runs down. Having Avery outside to take on curl/flat responsibilities or hook/curl over the middle is one thing, but allowing that raw speed and power to come powering through the trenches and take advantage of an unsuspecting lineman, is something else entirely.
It’s early days and it’s only one game, but Genard Avery may have finally found a home in Philadelphia…and the Eagles may have found a player with a skillset versatile enough to at least prompt some fresh looks for a defense that was starting to become stale.
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