Genard Avery exploded in week 4, but can he keep the fire burning?

Genard Avery
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Genard Avery (58) waits for play to resume, during the second half at an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

One of the most intriguing players to watch going into the 2020 campaign was also one of the quietest headed into last weekend. That changed drastically after an explosive breakout against the Niners reminded Eagles fans just how dangerous he can be. But what comes next for Genard Avery?

Acquired at last year’s trade deadline, Genard Avery’s Eagles story so far has been a bumpy one. The Birds gave up a 2021 fourth-round pick for the edge rusher who was midway through his second season with the Cleveland.

It didn’t take long for Genard Avery to make his mark either, registering half a sack in his Eagles debut. Avery played in just 3 snaps against the Bears and it looked as though he’d be an instant contributor. Splash plays in small sample sizes were soon going to become the norm. Looks were eventually deceiving and at the end of the season, he had played just 33 snaps on defense, falling back under the radar.

Avery spent the offseason working with the same footwork coach who helped both Darius Slay and Rausl Douglas over the Spring, but his Summer would be much quieter. If anyone needed a full offseason, it was Avery. Rehearsing his third defensive scheme in as many years, every preseason snap was set to be vital until it was ripped away.

He barely made a murmur all Training Camp and despite making the final roster, was buried behind a surging Josh Sweat when it came to snap counts. He’s yet to play in over 30% of defensive snaps in a single game, but he only needed 16 against the Niners to make his presence felt.

Avery tallied 5 QB hits in those 16 snaps. 5. QB. hits. Demolishing a struggling 2018 first-round RT in Mike McGlinchey, the Memphis product lit up Nick Mullens over and over again, building up a 31.3% pass-rushing production rate, forcing a crucial interception via pressure alone and sending him careering into the turf on what felt like every other play.

“That was sort of the breakout game we’ve been waiting for from him.” Jim Schwartz said on Tuesday. “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. 

I think he had too big of a pass rush repertoire earlier in his career, and Coach Burke [run game coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Burke] and Coach Wash [director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn] have done a really good job of just sort of honing in on what works for him and he’s starting to embrace that. He’s certainly made a difference in this game. 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. 

His pressure led to the first interception, which I think was a huge play in that game, sort of maybe flies below the radar when the game is all said and done. They [the 49ers] 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.”

If Schwartz was waiting for a breakout, it would probably have come much sooner if he’d actually played a substantial amount of snaps. But maybe this explosion in production was enough to convince Schwartz to deploy Avery more.

Genard Avery might not have an inside track to an EDGE3 role anytime soon and a spike in snaps would be odd to say the least. But as a situational pass-rusher who can take advantage of tiring tackles, his freak athleticism might just be enough to buy the Eagles a swift change in momentum on any given play. If he can continue to pan for gold and come away with jewels, then what was once deemed a risky trade will soon pay dividends for Howie Roseman and the Philadelphia Eagles.