What do the Chiefs need from Avant? Absolutely anything
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The bottom line regarding the Chiefs’ recent signing of wide receiver Jason Avant?
It certainly can’t hurt.
The Chiefs, after all, have become historically, if not laughably, bad at the wide receiver position.
The most talked-about statistic, of course, is that the Chiefs still have a goose egg when it comes to touchdowns scored by wide receivers. That’s through 11 games.
Consider some other pitiful numbers from the wideouts:
— Just 86 total receptions, which is last in the NFL;
— Just 997 total yards, also last in the NFL;
— A long gain of 33 yards, which, you guessed it, is also last in the NFL.
Enter the 31-year-old Avant, who isn’t exactly a dynamic playmaker and who was recently released by the woeful Carolina Panthers.
But the Chiefs don’t need spectacular at the position right now. They just need someone who is productive and at least vaguely familiar with those rectangular boxes on each end of the football field.
Avant vows he can be that guy, though he has scored only five touchdowns in the last five seasons.
"I know what I am and I know that I still can play and I know that I’m a good player," Avant said. "I always have that chip on my shoulder. If you ever see me play, I’m a very competitive person and I like to prove those people right that acquired me."
There should be concerns about just how much Avant has left in the tank. He caught just 21 passes for 201 yards for the Panthers before his release this season.
Avant’s last solid season was in 2012 with the Eagles, under coach Andy Reid, when he snared 53 passes for 648 yards. Not flashy, but fairly productive.
And that’s all Reid and the Chiefs are begging for right now — a fairly productive wide receiver.
Whatever Avant has left, Reid likely will know how to utilize.
"Some of the biggest things you appreciate is (Reid) knowing how to use personnel," Avant said. "His football experience over the years — he’s had all different types of players. He’s had big receivers like (Dwayne) Bowe, he’s had small receivers like DeSean (Jackson), he’s had guys in certain realms to do different things and he’s able to use those guys in the right way.
"He knows about man coverage, and knows what I do best and that’s usually uncovering (from defensive backs) and being over the middle and different things like that. He looks at everybody as having an ability, everyone has a strength, and he’s going to try to find their strength and use it to the best of their ability and also for the team’s best interest."
One built-in advantage for Avant is his knowledge of Reid’s system. Avant estimates he already knows about 65 to 70 percent of the playbook.
"Yeah, there are some similarities there," Avant said, "but there’s a lot of new things as well. He has different personnel here, so he uses different personnel in different ways so you have to change play-calling around. I’m learning those things right now."
Enough to be a major part of the offense by Sunday night, when the Chiefs square off with the Broncos?
"I don’t know yet," Avant said. "We have a whole week of practice ahead of us and I will see throughout the week how much they will play me and those types of things.
"But I don’t know. I just want to be ready and prove to them that I can grasp the playbook in such a short notice and have them to have confidence in having me out there."
Working with quarterback Alex Smith could quicken the learning process, Avant contends.
"Alex is a guy that I’ve admired from afar, especially here with the Chiefs under coach Reid," he said. "And especially the season that he had last year and even when he was in San Francisco. Just talking with him, he’s a very heady guy that’s able to take in a lot of information and make the correct reads. That’s what you want as a receiver, a guy that’s going to put your team in a position to win.
"So I’m looking forward to working with Alex a whole bunch. He’s able to make some plays on his own with his scramble ability, and that gives you a little bit extra time as a receiver to make a play. All of those things are factors."
Avant throughout his career has been used mostly out of the slot, which likely won’t change with the Chiefs.
"With coach Reid, I know some parts of his offense that kind of suit me well," Avant said. "Some of the things that he has you doing over the middle, some of the ways that he thinks about in terms of coverages. He thinks about leverage, he thinks about what the defense is trying to do, and he’s always trying to game plan against those things. So I really respect that and I’m glad to be here."
And now that he’s here, Avant understands his mission: Find a way — any way — to make this Chiefs receiving corps better. He believes his experience — this is his ninth NFL season — trumps any physical limitations he has now.
"You know, there are two ways to do it in this league," he said. "There are guys that beat you with just running and running fast. But the (defensive backs) in this league are fast, too.
"So if you learn the game the right way and you try to define points that your coaches teach you — you can set up a guy by learning to use your speed by speeding up and slowing down. It’s all about learning how to play the game as a receiver so when you get older your game doesn’t change — you’re still playing at a high level."