Philadelphia Eagles: Genard Avery can replace Chris Long

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

After suffering through two months of ineffective Philadelphia Eagles outside pass-rushing, Genard Avery can help to fill the void left by Chris Long.

Of all the moves in all the world, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off in 2019, arguably the worst has to be the decision not to retain Chris Long in free agency.

That’s right, more than letting Nick Foles sign with Jacksonville, more than trading Michael Bennett to the Patriots, and even more so than the bone-headed decision to draft Clayton Thorson (remember him?) before Gardner Minshew, the decision to let Long walk has had the biggest impact on the Eagles fortunes in 2019, and has very literally changed the way the team plays.

Now granted, Long left via retirement, so it wasn’t totally the team’s fault – though being offered a reduced role certainly played into his decision – losing arguably the best pure pass rusher on Jim Schwartz‘s defensive line has severely limited the attacking Wide 9’s inherent effectiveness.

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But fortunately for fans in the 215, Howie Roseman has effectively rectified Long’s absence once and for all by trading a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Genard Avery.

Measuring in at a “thick and strong” 6-foot, 250 pounds, Avery spent four years as Memphis‘ defensive swiss army knife. Tasked with splitting time between inside linebacker and defensive end in the Tigers’ 4-3 scheme, Avery’s tape highlights a player capable of pressuring the quarterback on one player with a hand on the ground – amassing an insane 57 pressures on 276 rushing attempts per PFF – and dropping into coverage on a wide receiver on the next.

While his performances didn’t garner legions of fans eager to see him vault to the NFL or even a college accolade outside of two appearances on the first team All-AAC team, Avery’s college stats  – 230 tackles and 21.5 sacks in 168 games – when coupled with a dominant showing at the 2018 NFL Combine vaulted the then-23 year-old up draft boards. Two months removed from running a 4.59 40 in Indiana, Avery was officially selected 150st overall by John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns – their second pass rusher of the draft.

And based on his rookie season alone, it looked like the Browns had found a certified steal.

On 684 defensive snaps, Avery picked up 40 tackles, four passes defensed, and 4.5 sacks in a similarly hybrid defensive role. Despite lacking a pure position in then-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ hybrid defensive front, the rookie clearly found favor in his new home and supplanted more established players like Anthony Zettel, Chris Smith, and his draft classmate Chad Thomas for playing time.

In the NFL, things change in a hurry.

Fast forward one year, one head coach, and one defensive coordinator later, and Avery is a member of the Philadelphia Eagles after playing five defensive snaps in two games of action.

While the situation that brought Avery to the City of Brotherly Love is unusual – especially when you consider that the team asked Avery to gain weight only to bench him months later when he lost his signature burst (more on that crazy story here) – the front office clearly valued the 24-year-old edge rusher enough to surrender a pick higher than the one used to draft the Memphis product in the first place – especially when you consider the Browns’ status as trade deadline buyers.

Despite perceivably lacking the prototypical size to be a three-down defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, Avery has the burst needed to get around the edge and impact plays in the offensive backfield. Whether lined up in place of Brandon Graham or alongside him in Schwartz’s NASCAR subpackage, Avery adds some much-needed speed on the outside that the Eagles have sorely lacked in Long’s absence – and give the Birds a pure pass-rushing defensive end.

To put it simply, Avery can be what Daeshon Hall, Josh Sweat, and 2019 fourth-round pick Shareef Miller have not: Get production as a speedball coming off the edge.

The Philadelphia Eagles already won the 2019 NFL trade deadline. dark. Next

With two more years under contract, Derek Barnett entering a contract-year, and no true heir for Brandon Graham on the roster, the Philadelphia Eagles’ decision to trade a fourth-round pick for Genard Avery makes a ton of sense both for right now and for the future. After two straight years of Day 3 missteps on developmental pass rushers, this move should solve Jim Schwartz’s defensive woes once and for all.