When the Philadelphia Eagles released veteran wide receiver Jason Avant earlier this offseason, the move hardly came as a surprise. Avant's leadership and tireless effort never came into question but his production greatly suffered in first year under new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Avant's 38 catches, 447 yards and 2 TDs in 2013 were his lowest totals since 2008. It was clear that Avant, who lacks speed, just wasn't a good fit for Kelly's offense. Avant, now with the Carolina Panthers, even admitted as much in a recent interview via the Charlotte Observer:
Avant was not a fan of Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly, however. Kelly’s first season in Philadelphia in 2013 turned out to be Avant’s last as an Eagle. Avant ranked sixth on the team in receiving yardage and, in his words, "mostly ran clear-out routes."
Said Avant of Kelly: "When it came to certain things, we butted heads sometimes – route running and route technique. So I knew I didn’t fit his system."
As for his release in March, Avant said it didn’t surprise him because he wasn’t the burner Kelly wanted as a wide receiver.
"I knew that was coming maybe four games into last season," Avant said. "When they stop calling your number and guys start running some of the routes that you run – I knew from the beginning that I didn’t fit his style of offense, in that I’m a crafty guy that gets open in an atypical way."
Kelly didn't have the luxury of cutting Avant last year with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson as the only proven receivers on the roster at the time. Avant became even less expendable when Maclin went down with a season-ending injury. Then there was the Riley Cooper racist video fiasco, where Avant was counted on as a leader in an awkward time for the team. Plus, Kelly was able to get by with Avant due to his prowess as a blocker. But it's easy to see why Kelly was ready to move on from Avant. Take a look at these numbers from last year:
Avant only caught 50% of the passes thrown his way in the slot, which ranked 32 out of 33 slot receivers. Avant was credited for 3 dropped passes. He just wasn't a reliable target. Avant was graded 89 out of 111 total receivers per PFF. His 2.3 yards-after-catch per reception ranked 103 out of the 111 receivers.
A look at those numbers suggest that the loss of Avant was actually a gain for the Eagles offense. It's hard to imagine any new slot receiver could have been as bad or worse than that. Even with tempered expectations, it's easy to think rookie Jordan Matthews will be a massive upgrade in that area.
Once again, it was clear to see why Avant and Kelly "butted heads." They simply just weren't a match for each other. But instead of either side making a big, dramatic deal out of it, they both did their best to work through a season and part ways afterwards. The Eagles upgraded the slot wide receiver position this offseason and Avant was able to find a new job in Carolina. Everybody wins.