It’s been an intriguing offseason for the Eagles, but in a year of transition, one positional group has remain largely untouched – defensive end. The Eagles did draft Casey Toohill in the seventh round, but they’ve lost more than they’ve gained. Vinny Curry is still a free agent, putting even more pressure on Derek Barnett’s shoulders, with only Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller behind him as serviceable depth. We’re forgetting about one man though – Genard Avery.
Acquired at last year’s trade deadline, it wasn’t the blockbuster move Eagles fans were craving. However, the cost was certainly high enough to turn heads, with the Birds’ giving up a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Avery stands at 6’1, 225 lbs, and was entering his second year in the league after a strong rookie season where he notched 4.5 sacks and 40 tackles. As a sixth-round pick, he certainly looked like he was going to be an absolute steal…until the Browns did a Browns thing.
Cleveland decided to hit the reset button on the caching staff and went from a 4-3 scheme where he played as an OLB, to a 4-2-5 where he’s a defensive end. This may have left Avery out in the cold, leading the Eagles to come in hot.
Eagles Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke highly of Avery after the trade was announced.
“Mainly the exposure I had was last year as a rookie he did some productive things. 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.”
It didn’t take long for Avery to make his mark either, registering half a sack in his Eagles debut. Avery played in 59% (17) of special teams snaps and 7% (3) on defense that day against the Bears and things instantly looked brighter. By season’s end though, he had played in a total of 147 special teams snaps and only 33 on defense, falling back under the radar.
Entering the offseason, there were some who viewed Avery as a linebacker and others who saw him as a stand-up DE. With such a lack of depth at defensive end and the fact that the Eagles did invest a fourth-round pick to acquire his services, his leaner frame definitely bodes well for a future on the edge. When you combine that with some frankly explosive bend being displayed in his offseason workouts, it’s easy to begin feeling a little excited.
Then, there’s the change of DL coach. Matt Burke, a man who has worked incredibly close to Jim Schwartz throughout his career, will now take the reins and may be able to provide the exact style of coaching his teacher wants to implement.
With 3 DE positions locked in, the crucial EDGE4 position is up for grabs – a role that was last owned by Josh Sweat, who in his second year amassed 4 sacks and 21 tackles, playing in 35% of snaps. It’s a sizable jump, but with Sweat being bumped up the roster, finding that same EDGE4 production shouldn’t be too hard considering Avery already passed that milestone as a rookie.
Avery will be competing against names like Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller, but has NFL experience over Miller (who played in just 2 special teams snaps last year) and arguably the investment on his side.
It remains to be seen whether or not Avery can make a jump in 2020, but he’s easily among the team’s brightest breakout candidates due to there being such an open opportunity at DE and looking so poised to make the most of it.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky