PHILADELPHIA – Give yourself a pat on the back if you had Jason Avant in the wide-receiver-most-likely-to-skewer-Chip Kelly pool.
DeSean Jackson’s departure from the Eagles got all the attention, and for good reason. He was coming off a Pro Bowl season, put up great numbers and was still under contract. Avant was 31, saw his role diminish over the course of the season, and his contract expired after the season.
Avant signed with the Carolina Panthers. This week, he told the Charlotte Observer that he knew his days as a Kelly employee were numbered “maybe four games into last season. 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.”
There isn’t much to see here, actually. There is nothing remarkable, really, about a coach shaping his roster to fit his vision for how the game should be played. Kelly made some changes immediately upon taking over the Eagles last year, but it takes a little time to remake an entire football program. Especially when that program had been run the same way for 15 years.
“When it came to certain things,” Avant told the Observer, “we butted heads sometimes – route running and route technique. So I knew I didn’t fit his system.”
Avant was a good soldier and did his part to help smooth the transition from Reid to Kelly. That is even more admirable when you learn that he was doing so with the knowledge he wouldn’t be here when it all came together.
Still, Avant’s comments do shed a bit more light on the Jackson situation. If the oldest, most respected leader among the wide receivers didn’t see eye to eye with Kelly, that suggests Jackson wasn’t totally on board, either. Jackson, like Avant, was steeped in Reid’s approach to the game. Clearly, that approach differs from Kelly’s.
All of that supports the theory that Kelly released Jackson because he didn’t really buy in to what the coach was trying to build here.
That’s fine as far as it goes. But Kelly immediately put pressure on himself to replace the departed talent without taking a step backward. The early signs are good. Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles and Josh Huff seem like pieces that Kelly can plug in without missing a beat. The Eagles will have to deal with Jackson twice a year while he’s in Washington, but they won’t see Avant again unless it’s in the playoffs.
If there’s any head butting going on then, it will be on the field.