Eagles Wake-Up Call: Avant On WR Change-Up


NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-OTA

Jason Avant saw the wide receiver overhaul coming.

He downplayed the drama surrounding the offseason moves, saying Chip Kelly and DeSean Jackson had a good working relationship and that his own comments about “butting heads” with Kelly were overblown. In his mind, the reconfiguration had more to do with dollars and cents and resource allocation.

“You have an emerging [Jeremy] Maclin, you have a receiver draft that is high on talent that year and then you just paid Riley Cooper, so you kind of put the pieces together. Me and DeSean or me and Mac, we knew two of us would be gone,” he said. “We didn’t know which one it would be but you kind of [understand] situations over the years.

“I saw my role and what they had me doing and it just didn’t make sense for them financially to keep me to do some of the things I was doing. That’s no slight at Chip or anyone, it’s just a good business decision. Man, if I was in the business decision I would have looked at it and said: Look, to catch bubbles and to block, we can get a rookie to do that for a lesser price. That’s just a smart move by Howie Roseman and Chip.”

Out went Avant and in came Jordan Matthews to play the slot. Avant had 38 catches for 447 yards and a pair of touchdowns playing inside for Kelly last year. Matthews is currently on pace for 64 catches, 626 yards and six touchdowns playing a similar role. While Avant clearly brought other things to the table, there has been an upgrade statistically at a discount financially.

The No. 1 receiver duties, meanwhile, went from Jackson to Maclin, who is on pace to set single-season franchise records in multiple categories.

“He’s getting more targets, and that’s the thing that he just needed,” said Avant. “He’s been under the radar for so long and for him to emerge the way he has is really great for a lot of people that work really hard.

“In the type of offense Coach Kelly runs, there’s going to be opportunities and there is going to be a lot of easy catches. And when you have a lot of easy catches — whether that be bubble screens, whether that be five-yard catches — when you have a guy as dynamic as Mac, those turn into 10, 15-yard gains, and then you have his deep threat ability. I knew that if he would be healthy, he would be fine.”

The stellar play of Maclin has helped offset the limited amount of production coming from Cooper on the other side. The Eagles have gotten by with their new-look receiving corps, which no longer includes the ol’ JUGS machine using,  advice-dispensing  Avant. The 31-year-old has 20 receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers this year. While he seems to be enjoying his time in Carolina, he hinted at some disappointment over not being able to finish his career in Philly.

“Every player wants to play in one city for their whole career, but I understood the business side of it,” he said. “I love the organization, I love [Kelly and Roseman], I don’t have any hard feelings. I’ll be giving [Kelly] a big hug when I see him. I respect him and I respect what he is doing. They’re having a great season so far and I am really, really excited for a lot of the guys there, and I still talk to a lot of people. I’m happy they’re doing well — I just hope they don’t do well this week. That’s it.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

“Let’s step this s*** up, it’s time to rise to the occasion.” When DeMeco Ryans went down, something clicked in Mychal Kendricks.

“I control the roster.” Kelly responds to report suggesting the Eagles have soured on Nick Foles long-term.

According to one member of the national media, Mark Sanchez is “taking over the quarterback-proof offense.”

Sheil gets us more familiar with the Carolina Panthers.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Brian Billick talked Sanchez with Mike & Mike on Wednesday. From Matt Lombardo:

“We shall see. Kirk Cousins, are we going to get all excited about Mark Sanchez? Are we going to decide that all of the things that went on in New York wasn’t Mark Sanchez’s fault?

“He’s a one-for-one touchdown-to-interception guy. Hell, he’s a sub 65 percent completion guy. Now maybe that all was New York and the circumstance. Maybe he’s just in the right place but will all of that come to fruition? I don’t know.”

Phil Sheridan believes Darren Sproles is the Eagles’ MVP at the halfway point.

The little running back made the play that shook the Eagles awake from their opening day doldrums against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and several other key plays.

Sproles’ 49-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars kick-started the Eagles’ comeback in that game. In Indianapolis the next week, Sproles’ 51-yard pickup on a screen pass from Nick Folesset up the game-tying touchdown.

The Eagles knew they would be without big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson this season. They believed that Jeremy Maclin could replace Jackson at receiver. But they also needed a home run hitter, a guy who could turn a loss into a win with one play. Sproles has provided that element, most notably in the first two games of the season.

Maclin made a late charge at the honor with four touchdowns in the past two weeks, but Sproles’ impact has been undeniable.

COMING UP

We’ll speak to Kelly and Sanchez. Practice is at 11:55.