Donnie Avery demonstrated during Wednesday’s offseason practice why the Chiefs think their passing game will improve this season even though they didn’t draft or sign a free-agent wide receiver.
Avery, whose first season with the Chiefs was marked by inconsistency, flashed his speed while burning cornerback Ron Parker for a 50-yard completion from Alex Smith in seven-on-seven drills. In team work, he leaped high to grab another pass from Smith.
Only a dropped pass in the end zone on a goal-line session spoiled his day.
“The big thing about Donnie is he played three-fourths of the year last year with one shoulder,” said assistant head coach David Culley, who oversees wide receivers. “Now, he’s completely healthy. This offseason, he’s been a different guy from the standpoint of extra speed, staying healthy, and if he can maintain his health, you’ll see a different Donnie, a more productive Donnie.”
Avery caught 40 passes for 596 yards and two touchdowns last season, and added a franchise playoff-record 79-yard touchdown catch in the Chiefs’ first-round AFC playoff loss at Indianapolis before he left the game with a concussion.
The Chiefs think he can be an effective complement to Dwayne Bowe and, coupled with the improvement of Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins, can offset the lack of newcomers.
“We won 11 ballgames last year with this group,” Culley said. “The one thing about the guys who weren’t starters for us last year, like Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins, the last game of the season at San Diego, those guys played the whole ballgame and did a nice job and were very productive.
“We saw there that there was something to those guys, when they were put in a situation to be productive, and hopefully if those guys take the next step with Dwayne and Donnie and anyone else who steps in there, I feel we’ll be productive.”
A year ago, the Chiefs were learning the offensive scheme of coach Andy Reid and a defensive system being installed by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. This year, they’re a lot more comfortable in what they’re doing, and both sides of the ball are benefiting when facing each other.
“Right now, defensively we are pounded about getting more interceptions and more turnovers,” said Pro Bowl inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. “Alex Smith isn’t having it right now. It’s one of those things where he’s making us be better. You have to get closer to the ball if you’re going to get one of Alex Smith’s passes.
“It’s one of those things where the whole team is looking better. There’s not a lot of mistakes going on out there.”
The DeVito diet
During the offseason, defensive end Mike DeVito embarked on a diet and conditioning program designed to make him quicker and help his pass rush so he can stay on the field on passing downs.
He says it’s working.
“You can feel it; you can tell a huge difference,” said DeVito, who started 14 games in the base defense but was not on the field enough to get a sack. “I feel like I can move a lot better. And my wind, I feel like I can have a lot more energy out there. So, you can tell even changing just a couple of pounds that the muscle has been good.”
DeVito says he’s still weighing between 305 and 310 pounds, but the weight is better distributed.
“My body fat is way down,” said DeVito, who turned 30 on Tuesday. “It has made a real difference and if you can feel it out here in OTAs. I’m sure I’ll keep it up in training camp even better. It’s always a fight about keeping yourself healthy and keeping yourself strong and fast.”
Hemingway missed his second day of practice because of illness, and cornerbacks Chris Owens (hamstring) and David Van Dyke (hamstring), and linebacker Ben Johnson (hamstring) did not practice.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebacker Justin Houston missed their eighth consecutive voluntary practice.