In a perfect scenario for the Kansas City Chiefs, Donnie Avery would not need to be the number two wide receiver opposite Dwayne Bowe in 2013. The most ideal situation would have Jonathan Baldwin stepping up and realizing that he has the talent to be a very good receiver, but it is doubtful that will happen.
Avery, who is not the biggest receiver in the world, stands just 5’11″ and weighs 200 pounds. He has played for the St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans (briefly), and the Indianapolis Colts, and has enjoyed some success everywhere but in Tennessee.
The biggest thing holding Avery back has been injuries. He missed all of the 2010 campaign due to a knee injury suffered in the third preseason game that year. In 2011, he missed time in preseason with a hamstring, and in 2012, he suffered a concussion. It will be tough to trust a player who has such a litany of injuries to be the number two guy each and every week. Already this off season, Avery missed most of OTA’s with a high ankle sprain.
When Avery has been healthy, he has been productive. In 2008 and 2009, his first two years in the league, with the Rams, Avery pulled in 100 catches for 1263 yards, averaging 12.6 per catch. He scored 8 touchdowns for the Rams. He sat out the 2010 season and was signed by the Titans in September of 2011. He played very little until the final game of the season, in which he caught three balls for 45 yards and 1 touchdown.
Last season in Indianapolis, Avery had his best statistical season. He caught 60 passes for 781 yards (13 yards per catch), including 3 touchdowns. One big drawback to his 2012 campaign was that he dropped a lot of passes. According to a study by Pro Football Focus, Avery dropped the biggest percentage of passes thrown his direction. According to the study, Avery was targeted 112 times, 72 were deemed catchable. He made 60 receptions but dropped 12, for a drop percentage of 16.67. Here is the table from Pro Football Focus were they break down the numbers:
If Avery is going to rise to the level of a viable number 2 receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs, he is going to have to stay healthy, and he is going have to eliminate a lot of these dropped passes.
Will the Chiefs actually need Avery to be the number 2 guy? Jonathan Baldwin, despite the physical tools, hasn’t shown any indication that he can be the guy. Baldwin appears to run undisciplined pass routes and hasn’t seemed to get how much hard work is required to a top receiver in the NFL. Maybe Andy Reid will be able to break through and help Baldwin reach his potential. If not, Avery will have to be the guy.
The good news is that Andy Reid has done a great job with receivers that are similar in size to Avery. Over the past few years, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson have been very successful in Philadelphia. In the past 4 seasons, the former Missouri Tiger, Maclin has 258 receptions for 3,453 yards (13.4 average) including 26 touchdowns. DeSean Jackson, in 5 seasons, has 274 catches for 4,785 yards (a terrific 17.5 average), with 23 receiving touchdowns. Now, don’t get excited. No one is suggesting that Avery is the same caliber of receiver as either Jackson and Maclin. There is plenty of evidence though, that Reid has a history of working successfully with receivers similar in stature to Donnie Avery. maybe Reid can push him to another level in his development.
The Chiefs passing game will certainly look much different than it has over the past several years. Reid has strengthened his tight end corp, so look for more balls to be thrown to tight ends than in the past few seasons. It wouldn’t be surprising if Jamaal Charles finds himself on the receiving end more often as well. For these parts of the game to work successfully, the receivers have to enjoy some successes down field, and Avery has to be part of that down field, aerial attack.
First things first, though, for Donnie Avery has to get healthy and stay healthy. Secondly, he needs to reduce his dropped passes significantly. If he can do these two things, look for Avery to have a significant role in the Chiefs offense. Whether or not he has to be the number two guy or not, that will need to be worked out in camp but the possibility is there. Avery will need to produce, of that, there is no doubt.