Long Time Coming: Avery's Burst Displayed Vs. 49ers
Despite flashing pass-rush potential as a rookie for the Browns, Genard Avery subsequently found himself toiling in anonymity for most of 2019.
Avery, initially perceived as an ascending complementary defender, began his sophomore season on the sideline as an inactive. He appeared in two games through the first four weeks, logging just five defensive snaps. Rather than outright release their former fifth-round pick, the Browns shipped Avery to the pass-rush needy Eagles ahead of the trade deadline in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Avery – and the Eagles – the change of scenery yielded a similar outcome.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to integrate Avery into the team’s defensive plans, and the six-foot, 250-pound fastball was sparingly utilized as a result. Although much of Avery’s eight-game sample size was dedicated to special teams, the Memphis product registered five tackles and a half-sack on 33 defensive snaps. Like Golden Tate before him, Avery appeared to be the result of a careless barter by the Eagles, trading substantial draft compensation to shore up a weakness But this time, the fourth-round investment was beginning to look like a net loss. As the season progressed, it became apparent that Avery was acquired without a clear-cut usage plan.
While the coronavirus pandemic short-circuited what could have been a pivotal offseason for the third-year defender, Avery showed virtually nothing during training camp that would indicate he was primed for a prominent defensive role. Instead, he was outclassed by the likes of Joe Ostman and 2020 seventh-round pick Casey Toohill. Further complicating his situation, a gruesome-looking knee injury – later classified as a bone bruise - put Avery’s tentative roster status in jeopardy. However, when the final 53-man roster was unveiled in September, Avery’s name was a noticeable inclusion. Whether his footing was solely attributed to the team’s investment or not, it seemed the undersized pass-rusher was entering his third season with a clean slate. Avery, active for three of the first four contests, has seemingly turned the corner following an uninspiring start. In Sunday’s prime-time clash with the San Francisco 49ers, Avery produced his finest performance as an Eagle, totaling a sack and five quarterback hits on just 16 snaps – that's about one QB hit for every five snaps. The Eagles deployed Avery as a standup rusher, a role that best suits his skill set. Though he lacks the prototypical measurements to undertake a distinguished rotational role, Avery proved he could be effective in a joker role. If the former Browns cast-off can continue to affect the passer in a limited capacity (12-18 snaps per game), the oft-maligned deadline deal will eventually pay dividends. In three games, the 25-year-old has amassed three tackles (1.0 for loss), 1.5 sacks, and six quarterback hits on 47 defensive snaps.
Avery’s on-field production wasn’t lost on his head coach, who glowingly spoke about his highly scrutinized acquisition on Monday. “In the case of Genard Avery, he’s another one that just has improved each week,” Pederson said. “He’s a guy that he’s low, he’s compact, he’s quick, he can bend, and he’s strong. "If he gets his hands into your chest, I mean, he can push a tackle back into the quarterback. He’s learning. He’s learning the scheme. He’s learning how to play within the scheme, and he had really good production [Sunday].”