In the world of the NFL, there are no stones unturned. There are no players who are not noticed. Every one of them has a paper trail in the form of a scouting report. When you hear that "every rep matters," you better believe it's true. In the case of Genard Avery, the track record, the résumé, goes far behind the meager playing time he had in Cleveland this season. It started back in college when Avery played at Memphis and the Eagles did their due diligence preparing for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Avery had a terrific career at Memphis and became a fifth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns that spring and then did well enough in his rookie season to register 4.5 quarterback sacks – tied for seventh among NFL rookies – playing 684 snaps (58.1 percent) in the Browns' defense. In 16 games with five starts, Avery added 29 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, four pass deflections, a forced fumble and recovery. He seemed to be settling in nicely as the third end in the Browns' rotation.
But a change in coaching staff meant a change in defensive scheme. Instead of playing on the edge with his hand down or standing up as a rush end in a 4-3 alignment, as he did last season, Avery was more of an outside linebacker this year. The fit wasn't a good one, and Avery hardly saw the field through the Browns' first seven games. He was on the active roster Sunday in Cleveland's loss to New England and played three defensive snaps.
This is what the Eagles look for around the league – players who they have good reports on who don't fit into other teams' schemes. Avery is here – acquired Monday for an undisclosed 2021 draft pick ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. NFL trade deadline – because the Eagles liked him prior to the 2018 draft and because they see the qualities that he has fitting into what they do here. To make room for Avery, the Eagles waived defensive tackle Bruce Hector.
Here is the book on Avery: He's an undersized pass rusher (6-foot, 250 pounds) who is fast and creates pressure from different alignments. He provides versatility off the edge for the defense and he showed last year, in a part-time role, that he can be productive.
So, Avery is added to the mix.
He isn't here to change the world. Let's make that very clear. The Eagles want Avery to come in and do what he does – play fast, with strength and tremendous effort and relentlessness.
"He plays with his hair on fire," said Browns run game coordinator/linebackers coach Al Holcomb back in the spring. "He plays fast. His effort is relentless. He's physical at the point of attack. Those are the intrinsic things that he brings to the table, that he brings to this defense – just his overall ability, his willingness and pursuit to get to the football. And he's a pretty good pass rusher as well."
The addition of Avery gives the Eagles seven defensive ends on the active roster, but from a long-term developmental standpoint, the team has five who are 24 years old or younger. From a playing time standpoint, the Eagles rotated four defensive ends in Sunday's win over Buffalo.
At Memphis, Avery finished his Tigers career third in school history in sacks (21.5) and second in tackles for loss (45.5) in 50 games (34 starts).
The Eagles will get their hands on him this week and learn more. They'll see how they can use the talents of a player who is described as "a human bowling ball" by Browns linebacker Joe Schobert. Anything the Eagles can do to improve a pass rush that has been spotty this season is needed in these final eight games as the team makes its playoff push.
There has been a lot of change at defensive end since the 2018 season. The Eagles traded Michael Bennett and saw Chris Long retire. They used a fourth-round draft pick on Shareef Miller, who saw his first game action Sunday in Buffalo. Daeshon Hall and Josh Sweat are seeing some time, along with veterans Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, and Brandon Graham, who had a monster game in Buffalo.