Inside Voices: The Value Of Avant

Eagles WR Jason Avant dives for a pass against the Cowboys. 10/20/13
At first glance, it looked like DeSean Jackson was screaming at Jason Avant. The wide receiver was overheating on the sidelines after a Nick Foles interception in Minnesota Sunday. Jackson was being restrained as he barked in the direction of Avant just a few yards away. Turns out, his words were aimed at receivers coach Bob Bicknell; Avant was just moving in to gain control. And that’s exactly what he did. After a quiet moment of counsel with Avant away from the rest of the team, Jackson hopped to his feet and returned to the pack without further incident.

“He kind of understands, he’s like a big brother, a voice you can listen to,” said Jackson.

Later in the game, Cary Williams lost his cool and was benched following an unnecessary roughness call and an apparent misunderstanding on the sideline. There was Avant again, sitting next to Williams on the bench, diffusing the situation.




“When those situations come up, because I have a relationship with everyone, I talk to everyone constantly -- when something goes on in their family I want to see about them – because we have a relationship usually I can go and talk to them, maybe not like the coach can or another player because they haven’t established their relationship,” said Avant. “It gives me a voice a lot of times that I can go over and they receive it even when they’re mad because they know who they are talking to.”

"Every NFL team," said Williams, "should have a guy like that in their locker room."

Avant is having a relatively quiet season statistically. While teammates like Jackson and Riley Cooper are having career years, Avant is on pace for 37 catches and a little over 400 yards, which would be his lowest totals since 2008.

For Chip Kelly, though, Avant’s value isn’t found in measurables. He needs culture-setters in his first year; guys that embody the type of approach and mentality that he wants to become the standard. Kelly has talked to the 30-year-old about what he expects out of him in that capacity, according to Avant.

His voice proved to be an important one when the Cooper situation unfolded this summer.

“My rookie year when I came in, immediately he came to me: ‘Anything you need. Any help. Anything. You just let me know.’ He always was there for me,” said Cooper. “He’s been one of my best friends on the team since the day I got here.”

The Michigan product leads a Bible study every Thursday that draws upwards of 20 players, some of whom will join him for a regular 7 :30 morning prayer as well. He serves as a conduit between position coaches and players to strengthen communication.

“That stuff goes a long way,” said Avant, “and what I learned is if you be a nice person to everyone and you speak, you’re kind, you do things right and be above blame, then even when someone else could do the job just as well or maybe just a little bit better, people will find ways to keep you around.  Same is true in life.

“It’s more than football. I want to see guys be successful. I don’t want to see the ESPN story, ‘Broke.’ I don’t want to see divorce, I don’t want to see car accidents and DUIs. I just don’t want to see that. So that’s my biggest goal here is not just to catch passes and not just to win, but if we can affect the lives of young men, that’s what my purpose is.”

Nick Foles, Yoga Master

A recent article in ESPN the Magazine detailed how the Seattle Seahawks have incorporated new-age methods, like yoga, into their training regimen.

Kelly’s Eagles aren’t practicing it regularly as of yet, but there is at least one player on the team that is a big proponent of it: Nick Foles.

The quarterback has typically been pretty guarded about his offseason training – he wouldn’t even disclose what state he spent his off months in heading into this year – but did allow that yoga is a part of how he gets ready for a season.

“I’ve done it for several years. It’s one of those things in the offseason I’ll do it once a week. I always do the heat yoga,” said Foles.

“It helps with flexibility. It helps with endurance. It will help with speed, it will help just overall when you cut and stuff, your body can handle more stress on it because everything is more flexible and it’s not all condensed and tight and stuff. When you stretch like that, it also lets a lot of, you know, you’ve got a lot of stuff on your mind, just relax.”

He picked up the practice from his mom, who Foles says is in better shape than he is. He’ll work out with her during the brief time when he is home in the offseason.

Once the season starts, though, he’s forced to put the yoga mat away.

“Absolutely not,” he said, when asked if that’s a practice he continues in-season. “My body…we do so much, it’s impossible to do all that extra stuff. We do so much stuff. I’m here 12 hours a day, so when I’m outta here I rest and get ready for the next day.”

Yes, the Cowboys will be on TV

Kelly said he will not rest his starters Sunday night even if Dallas win earlier in the day, making the Eagles-Bears game meaningless in terms of the division race. He wants a mentality where his players focus on what they can control instead of outside factors.

In an ideal world, the emotions and intensity would be the same whether Dallas wins or loses against the Redskins, but that’s probably easier said than done.

“We’ll watch the game, for sure we will,” said Mychal Kendricks. “Depending on what happens with that, I guess it’s going to put a little emphasis on our game.”

“We’re not going to say don’t watch the game or don’t pay attention to the scores,” said Kelly. “If it happens, it happens.”

If the Cowboys win, the night game will be little more than a warmup for the big showdown in Dallas to close out the regular season (though seeding could still be impacted by a win or a loss). If they lose, the Eagles can wrap up the NFC East with a win over Chicago. It could instantly become the biggest game of the year.

“You don’t try to make too much out of it. You try and do the same things you have been doing. You don’t wanna psyche yourself out,” said Kendricks. “No need for that. You still have to go out there and handle your business.”

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  • jabostick

    Nice to hear the props for Avant. I’ve been an Avant homer for a long time and even I know his time here is probably short. I think that ‘leadership’ is often an overvalued thing (mostly, I think, because the term is misused) but I do believe guys like DeMeco and Avant have a value that goes beyond a couple of tenths of a second of a 40-yard time. “Culture-setter” is a good term for them.

    Glad to see that he’s been able to put that skill set to use this year

    • pkatz

      I agree that he hasn’t been as effective this year as in the past but look at the eagles roster. They need help at receiver but who are they going to replace him with?

      They resign Cooper + Maclin (or another FA) and maybe draft one, but beyond that there’s not really anyone on their roster who can replace his production, even in a down year like this. In this scenario the depth chart looks something like:

      1. Jackson
      2/3. Cooper/Maclin/FA
      4/5. Avant/Rookie
      6. existing? someone else?

      • anon

        That Smith guy will be here next year — i think he’s going to be an important piece down the road (unless they can upgrade him in the offseason). But Kelly’s been looking for that offensive Joker (kr/pr/wr/qb).

    • morgan c

      Completely agree. I was actually kind of blown away by some of the things he said in that piece… in a good way. I knew he was that kind of guy, but things like:

      “and what I learned is if you be a nice person to everyone and you speak,
      you’re kind, you do things right and be above blame, then even when
      someone else could do the job just as well or maybe just a little bit
      better, people will find ways to keep you around.”

      and

      “So that’s my biggest goal here is not just to catch passes and not just
      to win, but if we can affect the lives of young men, that’s what my
      purpose is.”

      … are pretty inspiring. Seems like an awesome indispensable guy. The only thing I disagree with jabostick about is that his time being short here; Kelly undoubtedly recognizes the role a guy like Avant plays and how valuable he is as a culture setter. I see him here for a few more years at least. Also, you don’t have to be under 30 to be an effective slot guy. He’s also a fitness freak apparently.

      • jabostick

        I hope that is true and I’d be the first to welcome him back but if Chip feels that the culture setters of the first year have done their job then, theoretically, there should be a new set of culture setters in place.

        Probably more important, though, is I think he has a pretty significant cap number.

        • Corey Dawson

          http://www.overthecap.com/cap.php?Name=Jason Avant&Position=WR&Team=Eagles

          There’s a space between “jason” and “avant” in the link above if you want to copy and paste it to use it.
          In 2014 he has a base salary of 2.25 mil and a roster bonus of 1 mil, none of it guaranteed, so the Eagles could save 3.25 million be releasing him this offseason. His cap number would be that plus the 0.71 mil carried over from the prorated roster bonus that the salary cap takes a hit from regardless of if he is on the team, so 3.96 mil.
          2014 is the final year of the contract. I could see the Eagles going a few ways. I think the most likely if he is this much of a leader in the locker room is to work up a contract extension and keep him around for a few more years, and get a bit lower of a number in 2014.
          The second most likely option I think is they let him play out the contract and reassess after 2014.
          Finally, 3.25 million is a lot of money you could spend on other players though too, so it’s possible they cut him, but I don’t see it. Yes he’s your 4th receiver behind Cooper and Maclin, but they’re both free agents this year and I don’t see them both being kept. Maclin won’t want to take a pay cut and the Eagles might not want to pay him with his injury history. Cooper will want a pay day after being a WR2 all season and is a major wild card since this past off season will affect his value, we just don’t know how much. I think one will go (most likely Maclin) and one will stay and Avant is likely your WR3 and number 1 slot guy. He runs very good routes, has good hands, and is willing and good blocker, which CK really holds high on his list of WR skillsets. He’ll want him to stick around.

      • jesse

        he will become the receiver coach

    • bertinanth764

      My Uncle Levi recently
      got a stunning blue Toyota Matrix only from working off a macbook… try this B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m

      • jabostick

        Uncle Levi is a lucky man! Tell me, what does he think of Nick Foles’ prospects as a franchise QB?

  • EaglefaninAZ

    …”So that’s my biggest goal here is not just to catch passes and not just
    to win, but if we can affect the lives of young men, that’s what my
    purpose is.”

    And he can block downfield. I don’t care if his numbers are down this year, I hope he sticks around. He’s one of my favorite Eagles since he’s been with the team.

    • nicksaenz1

      100% agree. Wish his numbers were a little better so it’d be easier to justify keeping him around. Wonder if he’d want to coach when he hangs up the cleats.

      • anon

        He’s not anywhere close to the bottom of the roster so i wouldn’t worry about it, plus he’s good for a circus catch every now and then. However this was a really good piece of journalism from the 24/7 team. Good job guys.

        • nicksaenz1

          This was a great piece of journalism but from a pure production standpoint it’s just not there, so I do worry about it if they weigh his stats/production more heavily in determining whether to keep him around. We all love the circus catches but 2 a year doesn’t justify a few million, unfortunately for us. I hope he’s around, I just don’t consider a lock to happen.

      • EaglefaninAZ

        Although my latest “predictions” have been way off, I certainly see coaching in his future. The question remains as to whether that coaching happens in the NFL or not. I can see him working with youngsters and “catching them early”.

  • GEAGLE

    I really struggle trying to figure out what his future with us looks like. I think he has a chance to be back next year, but after that I’m not so sure…I will say that if we are going to invest a high draft pick on a WR, it might be a good idea to keep Avant who you know will mentor our high draft pick at WR instead of being threatened by the rookie

    • anon

      He got guys like Cooper and Ertz on the jugs machine daily at the beginning of the year? A pros pro.

      • GEAGLE

        Even Undrafted Russel Shep

  • Token

    Avant…. great guy and looks to be a great teammate. But just not a really good WR. Certainly not a fit for this offense IMO. Hes gone. They need more production there.

    • anon

      Dude you’re so negative. DJ2 has a roster spot, i think he’s more likely to be gone.

      • Token

        Grow a set. Avant wont be here. Im sorry for your loss. Neither will DJ2 or Maehl.

        • Johnny Domino

          Can’t make me not like and respect Avant. When he peed in your cornflakes, I don’t know. And your track record on GM-like pronouncements remains to be seen.

          After all, Jason Avant is a great receiver.

          http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XagvsSXSxnY&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DXagvsSXSxnY

          • Token

            Man o man do people get sentimental about players.

            How am I making you not like or respect Avant? I like and respect him.

            That doesnt make him a really good player.

            The truth is Jason Avant has never done a great thing in all his years here. Sure, he catches everything in training camp. Makes for a nice little story each year.

            Its just time to move on. Avant is worth no where near 4 mil. We need someone in that spot that poses a threat to a defense. Avant will surely catch on somewhere.

    • DirtyWaters

      He seemed to catch every third down for like 3 years. Great hands. Zero YAC.

      • Token

        Someone on here told me that if you shake a tree 10 Jason Avants will fall out. You see this guy throughout the NFL. Can catch a ball. Just isnt special in really any way. Not a threat.

        And if we are being honest with ourselves, Mr. Hands has dropped some big balls when given the chance.

        Again, im sorry to people who seem to be his family members on this board…. I like Avant, great guy. But I want something else in that spot. Especially for this offense. The more people you have that can take that quick bubble screen or slant and turn it into a 30 yard gain the better.

        • DirtyWaters

          Most of the fruit that fell would be rotten. Avant is special. Not as a receiver but as a player in the nfl. Just a solid human being.

          I was speaking about the past. I didn’t expect him to make the team this year. He had dropped some balls he would have caught in the past. He caught so many of Don’s passes at his feet for first downs. Loved that. His production this year is not measured in catches. I hope his attitude is contagious because I don’t think he’ll be here next year.

    • GEAGLE

      Gotta replace Meahl and Damaris first

      • Token

        surely. Theres gonna be quite a shake up at WR I think. But I dont think they can waste a bunch of picks there. Resign Maclin at a friendly price. Jackson-Cooper-Maclin-2nd or 3rd rounder as your top 4 on the chart?

        I wanna see another big guy outside. Someone who can make plays on the ball and go get it. Foles isnt afraid to take shots, so you need WRs who can go fight for it. Have Jackson and Maclin lined up a lot in the slot. Then we are talking some real mismatch problems.

        Thats the crazy thing this year with the numbers they are putting up. Because we really dont have many mismatches on the field at WR. Next year they are really gonna have to rethink playing us with a single high safety.

    • Spruce Goose

      Yes he’s not a burner but you can count on him to run a good route and make a catch. In 2009 32 of his 37 receptions came on third down and resulted in a first down. Add the leadership qualities he displays and he turns into an invaluable guy for Chip Kelly

    • Andy124

      A lot of that depends on what happens with Maclin, Benn, Cooper and the draft.

      • Token

        I think Benn is a non factor. He sucks to begin with and now coming off yet another injury.

        Maclin just depends on money. If he takes a “show me” type deal Id do it. I think he could be a weapon in this offense. But hes also coming off a major injury. Thats why he cant be THE plan. They still gotta go get another WR.

        I think Cooper stays. I dont think hes suddenly great. But him and Foles have chemistry. And he is very good at tracking a ball and going and getting it. Thats what we need.

        I see a scenario of Cooper and another big talented WR on the outside with Maclin and Jackson forcing mismatches lining up in the middle.

        • Andy124

          Kinda making my point. Might not trust Benn. Maclin could get a better offer elsewhere. Then in order to replace Avant, we need to add 3 WR better than what we get from Avant+Avant’s leadership. 3 is a lot imo.

          Not making a case that Avant is great and should be on the team. Just looking at numbers, all the other needs we’ll look to address, and the guys already on the team that he’s still better than. I don’t see how anyone can be confident about his status next year one way or the other.

          • Token

            Honestly, you could find a low end FA or UDFA that could come close or match Avants production. Hes just nothing special. Hes a guy.

            If I had to guess, I think Maclin is here. Benn will be in camp, maybe he ends up as the 6th WR, tho I doubt that.

            Jackson-Cooper-Maclin-High round pick are the top 4 probably. The other one or two spots are either a FA or a middle or later pick.

    • EaglePete

      this shouldnt get so many down votes. I agree, the chemistry stuff is important but production is more important. Its easier imo to have good chemistry than it is to have all the best talent on the field you can. If you win, the chemistry is usually there anyway lets not kid ourselves. I still think he could be a bench WR and stay on the team as an option. Funny though that a feel good article like this, and one semi negative comment gets everyone to jump on it. Then again, its better than the usual all negative all the time I guess, why this site is so great.

      • Token

        Yea its kinda nuts. Didnt know this many people loved Jason Avant as a player.

        I care about the team overall. And I know they can do better than Jason Avant.

        Chemistry is easy to talk about when your winning. Where was his great leadership and chemistry the last few years? Its just a bunch of bull. People get really caught up in that stuff.

        They simply need better WRs. Avant wont be here. His leadership just isnt that important. Leaders arent your #3 or #4 WRs. Sorry, dont mean to hurt feelings. I feel like im insulting a family member the way some are reacting.

        Avant is a injury away from starting. They have to do much better than that. Especially in this offense. At the end of the day, after all the cute chemistry talk, Avant has 376 yards and is a non factor to a defense. I want more players for a defense to worry about.

    • Corey Dawson

      Not a number 1 or number 2, but he’s just what Chip wants from an inside slot guy: good routes, good hands, good blocking. He’s not going to make the spectacular catches all the time, but he opens up the run game in the third level. One of Shady’s big snow game big runs was due to some great blocking by Avant. All that coupled with the leadership side of things, he’ll be sticking around. He’ll either play out 2014, or get extended this off season.

  • DirtyWaters

    For a typically primadonna position, it’s always a breath of fresh air to hear guys like him speak. If we release him, I can’t see many teams picking him up. I hope he comes back to the birds in some capacity. Does he still have that wedding chapel of market street?

    Oh, Foles trains in Dallas and grew up a cowboy fan just like drew brees. I hope he doesn’t get “star” struck in the finale.

  • Michael Myers

    podcast link undefined…wtf/…weeks in a row now.Tim and sheil need their own server…

    • mtn_green

      Really easy on iPhone or iPod. Goes straight to the podcast app.

    • jabostick

      Ive had that error the past two episodes (I use Downcast) but it seems to be working for me this week…

  • addicted2mula

    Lets pray that Giants and Green Bay wins. Because its possible the Bears won’t start if it happens. YES it would be nice to see how the Defense does against them BUT if Skins win , we can look at an easy win to the playoffs!!!

  • Token

    moved

  • Rick H

    I believe Jason Avant will be here next year. He will most likely have to take a pay cut. Other then that Avant has been an amazing asset to The Eagles for his entire career. I have read many articles just like this on Avant. Looking at Avant specifically as an on the field football player he as good of a blocker as I have ever seen at the receiver position plus an excellent special teams player!!!
    Core players like this are hard to come by in this league. Yes he will probably be the six receiver next year but to me that would be excellent. (On the opposite side of the equation is the business part of the NFL and that is my only concern.) If it happens it will be a big loss to The Eagles.
    Chemistry is clearly one of the strongest attributes of this team and Avant is right at the core of it. That can not be taught! Avant came from the worst part of Chicago and was on the streets by age 12. He knew every street game and survival skill before he could legally drive a car. He is truly a self made quality and spiritual individual. I admire him greatly!

    • DirtyWaters

      I hope you are right. But not sure if I see him as a #6 on ST.

  • theycallmerob

    So that’s my biggest goal here is not just to catch passes and not just to win, but if we can affect the lives of young men, that’s what my purpose is.”

    I heart you, Avant

  • John

    Good article man. Real good read.

  • Dilwala_G

    Maybe the cap numbers won’t work out, but why can’t Avant be the #4 receiver next year? I’d love to have Jackson, Maclin (playing in slot like he did in college a bit), Cooper, Avant, Smith, + Drafted Rookie as our 6 WRs. What am I missing here?

    • Corey Dawson

      That Cooper and Maclin are both in the final year of their rookie contracts and will both likely want pay days, and Avant is going into the final year of his contract. It’s possible they go that way, but I think they keep one and let one walk between Cooper and Maclin, and either extend Avant or let him play out his final year before figuring out the rest. Then, they try to find a big CK type WR with a mid round pick in the draft to be the future outside guy to fill the other spot. The last one will be a project guy that rises to the top during camp from a group of undrafted rookies, a few free agents, acouple practice squad guys, and maybe a late round pick.

  • #7

    One of my favorites Avant, even though he’s more a blocker now since Chip came in and Vick got hurt. This is the kind of player you need on a team and when it’s time to make that big 3rd down catch, he’ll be there to make it