Avery can be a weapon for the Chiefs — if only he can hang onto the rock

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First, the good news: Donnie Avery still goes from 0 to 60 in about two seconds flat.
Of his touches in 2012, six went for 25 yards or more. Of his targets, eight went for more than 40 yards. In his younger days, the new Kansas City Chiefs wideout was clocked at a 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. The cat’s a genuine home-run threat every time he gets the ball in his hands.
Which brings us to the bad news: Getting the ball in his hands.
Avery also dropped 12 of the 72 catchable opportunities — 16.67 percent — that went his way last fall in Indianapolis, tied for the worst rate among NFL wide receivers, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
To put those numbers in unfortunate perspective, Denver’s Eric Decker had 12 drops and a muff rate of 12.37 percent; the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas, 11 drops at a rate of 10.48 percent. During the Colts’ wild-card round loss at Baltimore eight months ago, Avery was targeted eight times but came away with only two catches to show for it.
“We had to feel comfortable that Donnie was a legitimate starter, and we felt that,” coach Andy Reid told reporters Tuesday. “We felt that when we brought him here and since he’s been here, that he could be a quality starter on our football team.
“We were able to do this and we feel comfortable doing this. Donnie has tremendous speed, and he’s got a lot of experience and he’s shown in this offense that he can do some nice things.”
To mix metaphors for the hell of it, the 5-foot-11 Avery is a bit like the football equivalent of Adam Dunn: preternaturally gifted, capable of launching the ball out of any canyon in the free world; yet, in the same breath, completely aggravating for his inability to contribute much to the party otherwise.
“I think he brings a different dimension to us, a guy who can really stretch the field,” quarterback Alex Smith told reporters. “Just kind of a different toolset.”
To put it another way, Avery is fast and scrappy and veteran, three things Jon Baldwin, the man whose trade Monday to San Francisco pushed Avery into the Chiefs’ starting lineup, was (and is) not.
Nor is he the conventional, big-bodied outside-receiver bookend to line up opposite Dwayne Bowe. Although, to be honest, Reid and general manager John Dorsey have plenty of those on the tight end front already in the form of Anthony Fasano (6-4), Tony Moeaki (6-3) and rookie Travis Kelce (6-5), any two of whom are likely, health permitting, to be on the field at the same time in many of the new-look sets.
“Yeah, I kind of ran this offense my second year in St. Louis, so I kind of know the ins and outs,” said the 29-year-old Avery, who set career highs in receptions (60) and receiving yards (781) with the upstart Colts a year ago. “I just need to get more reps with Alex and build that in Kansas City.”
Reps and health. Avery missed most of the spring and early-summer off-season practice sessions because of a nagging high ankle sprain.
“Yeah, I missed OTAs, but at the same time, (I’ve) practiced,” Avery continued. “I came here early in training camp and got the opportunity to have a couple of extra practices with the quarterbacks and tried to build timing with those guys then.”
Still, it’s kind of tough to break the other guy’s ankles when you’re worried about rolling one of yours in the process.
“You have to take some of the pressure off of Dwayne,” Avery said. “With my speed and ability, I can do that.”
You have to hang onto the rock, too. Since 2009, Avery has been targeted 240 times and came away with 112 grabs, a rate of 46.7 percent.
More perspective: Baldwin, the old civic piñata, owns a career rate of 41.4 percent. In other words, if you’re feeling 5.3 percent better about the Chiefs’ receiving corps than you did last Friday, well, that sounds about right.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com