Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Lack of YAC could trigger the end of Jason Avant's tenure with the Eagles

The Eagles will have to decide if wideout Jason Avant's intangibles are worth the $1M roster bonus he's set to receive.

Lack of YAC could trigger the end of Jason Avant's tenure with the Eagles

Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant. (Michael Perez/AP)
Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant. (Michael Perez/AP)

All season long during his press conferences, Chip Kelly avoided labeling the Eagles' offense like the plague, often pointing out that a term like "zone read" refers to one of many play concepts they run, as a opposed to an offense. "Here is our offense," explained Kelly. "We run the See Coast offense. If we see something and we like it and we think it fits, we're going to run it."

However, there was one label that Kelly did commit to. Leading up to the Cardinals game, when Kelly was being peppered with questions about his "great college offense," as described by Arizona head coach Bruce Arians, Kelly clarified, "We're a spread out team." 

All season long, the Eagles showed that they liked to stretch the field horizontally (sideline to sideline), in addition to vertically. The premise of using every inch of the field horizontally is that you make the opposing defense cover the enitre field, spreading them out and getting your offensive weapons the ball in their hands with room to run.

And the results were there. Aided by Kelly's efforts to spread out opposing defenses, the Eagles' weapons in the passing game were able to accumulate a lot of yards after the catch. Brent Celek led all NFL tight ends (minimum 30 catches) with 9.5 yards on average after the catch (YAC), while LeSean McCoy led all NFL running backs (minimum 30 catches) with 12.0 in average YAC. Celek, McCoy, and Riley Cooper all had career highs in average YAC, and four of the five Eagles regulars in the passing game had better YAC averages in 2013 than they had in their respective careers.

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The lone exception, as you can see, is Jason Avant, who already had an unimpressive career YAC average to begin with, which tumbled even further under Kelly.

Avant has never been a receiver who was going to give you big plays in the passing game. For his career, Avant has just two receptions of 40+ yards, and none over the last four years. What Avant did provide, however, was a sure-handed option over the middle who caught 66.5% of the passes thrown his way. He has also been regarded as a consummate teammate and leader.

At this stage in his career, however, Avant may only be a leader. In 2013, not only did Avant's YAC average take a plunge, but the percentage of completions on passes thrown his way plummeted. Avant caught just 50% of passes intended him last season, which was far below his career average.

Avant was key in keeping the Eagles' locker room together in the wake of Riley Cooper's racial slur video during training camp in 2013. It's hard to quantify what Cooper's fate would have been without Avant going to bat for him, and how the season would have played out without Avant's strong presence among his teammates.

The Eagles will have to decide if Avant's intangibles are worth potentially leaving bigger plays on the field from the slot receiver spot, and they have to do so soon. Avant is scheduled to receive a $1 million roster bonus if he's still on the team on March 15th. The new league year begins on March 11th, which is also when free agency begins. The Eagles can save $3,250,000 in cap space if they decide to part ways with Avant.

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