We continue our Year in Review series with Jason Avant, who is scheduled to become a restricted free agent later this week.
The Eagles' slot receiver set career highs with 41 catches for 587 yards and three touchdowns in 2009. His 14.3 yards per reception was also a career best.
Avant's numbers in the following categories have improved in each of his four seasons in the NFL: receptions, yards, yards per reception.
I checked out stats for every NFL team, and only seven had a third wide receiver with better numbers (catches and yards) than Avant. Of course, that is partly a reflection of which teams throw the ball the most, but still worth noting.
Avant was a great complement to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. He made tough catches, got open on third down, was a tremendous blocker and the ultimate team-first guy.
My favorite Avant moment came in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' second game against the Redskins. With the Birds' offense struggling and the team trailing, 24-16, he made a great 46-yard grab despite getting drilled by safety LaRon Landry. On the very next play, Donovan McNabb went back to him for a 20-yard gain. The Eagles would score and tie it on that drive before coming back to win the game.
Statistically, his best performance was against the Chargers as Avant led all receivers with eight catches for 156 yards.
But again, Avant's value is in the intangibles. The Eagles ranked second in the NFC with 42 pass plays that went for more than 25 yards. The Birds' receivers were fifth in the NFC in yards after the catch. That is partly due to the scheme and the speed of Jackson and Maclin. But Avant definitely deserves credit for blocking and opening up space for those guys.
In the Eagles' three worst offensive performances of the year - the loss to the Raiders and the final two losses to the Cowboys - Avant found little success. He had just three catches for 40 yards in those three games. In the loss to the Raiders, he went without a catch. In the Week 17 loss to Dallas, he had one grab for 8 yards. And in the playoff loss, he had two for 32.
Overall, it was a stand-out season for Avant. His toughness and attitude rarely go unnoticed with this fan base, and he should return as the Birds' slot receiver in 2010.