In the aftermath of the Chiefs’ big prime-time win over Philadelphia last week, Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe fielded a question regarding Donnie Avery and could not help but grin, albeit slyly.
“The drive routes,” Bowe said, with a certain amusement.
Watching Avery go to work against the Eagles was a joy for the Chiefs. They targeted Avery, a six-year pro, seven times and watched him record seven catches for 141 yards, including four third-down conversions.
But it was the way he did his damage — all but two were on short crossing routes over the middle, which Bowe alluded to — that even took Avery by surprise.
“I didn’t think we were going to run that many,” Avery said. “But coach knew the coverages from the people upstairs and we made the right calls.”
Avery, a former second-round pick of St. Louis in 2008, is now on his fourth team after stints with the Rams, Colts and Titans. But after a relatively low start to his Chiefs’ career — he caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in wins against the Jaguars and Cowboys — he took full advantage of his opportunity against the Eagles, despite the fact it takes a certain degree of courage to repeatedly venture across the middle in the NFL.
“You’ll see if you throw anybody’s tape on defense, the linebackers are looking for those routes, they’re looking to disrupt timing,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson. “To Donnie’s credit, he’s good at seeing that and sniffing that out.”
Pederson said Avery’s speed — he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the 2008 combine — also makes him a weapon on crossing routes.
“He always does a nice job with his release,” Pederson said. “Anytime you can throw it underneath the coverage and make a guy miss, the advantage goes to the offense.”
Avery said there’s a bit of an art to it. While you pretty much go full-speed if the defense is in man coverage — you’re trying to elude the one guy assigned to you — you have to be able to find the soft spots if the defense is playing zone, all while ignoring the ever-looming threat of getting your block knocked off.
Sounds fun, huh?
“You know you’re gonna to get hit, so you’ve just got to have tunnel vision and make sure you get the catch,” Avery said. “Then you get the first down and everything else is a bonus after that.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he knew Avery, who was signed a free agent this offseason, had the ability and mentality to go over the middle based on his college tape at Houston, where he starred in one of the nation’s most productive offenses under current Baylor coach Art Briles.
“His quarterback was a kid I ended up drafting, Kevin Kolb, so I saw plenty of tape of him, even though I believe he was a year ahead of him,” Reid said. “He is familiar with doing those things and he’s done a little bit of that in this league. Now, as much as he had the other night? He hadn’t done that much for us until the other night. But he sure did it well.”
Even Avery, who said he spent the Chiefs’ first two games running slants and go routes and other intermediate routes,
“Those were some good money routes Thursday,” Avery said.
It remains to be seen, however, whether Reid will call on Avery to make New York pay in a similar way on Sunday. The Giants have the Philly tape, after all, and Pederson added that Avery isn’t the only receiver the Chiefs feel comfortable running those routes.
But whatever happens, Avery insists he trusts Reid to do what’s best for the team, whatever that may be.
“I’ve got lot of respect for Andy Reid,” Avery said. “Whatever he calls, I’m with it, and if the ball comes my way, I’m with that, too.”