The news that Jason Avant has signed a new five-year contract is quite welcome after a first free agency weekend that saw the Eagles mostly sitting out the action.
Avant is a fan favorite and solid contributor. You win with guys like Jason Avant (provided you also have a few DeSean Jacksons).
The question now before the house is if Avant can ever be more than what he is now. As long as Maclin and Jackson are healthy, he's going to be the #3 receiver. We know that. And Avant's lack of speed (when compared to NFL wide receivers) means it's tough to find effective ways to use him on the outside.
But Avant does one thing better than anyone else on the roster: Catch the football. When Celek's not playing with a jacked-up thumb, he's pretty close, but no one else on the team can stretch to pull in errant or difficult throws better than Avant.
The "problem" with Avant, though, is that he's like the second guy off the bench who can come in, knock down a few jumpers, and contribute 5-6 points a game. Sure, he'll grab a few rebounds and play tough defense while he's in there, but he's really just a "spell" guy who gets his shots when nothing else is open. They never run a play for him.
There's no question that's a valuable role, but it makes me wonder what would happen if they actually did run some plays for him. The next time the offensive line was getting blitzed out of its shoes and the coaches had to start ratcheting down the gameplan, what would happen if instead of trying to force slants to Mac/Jax, we actually counted on Avant to beat his guy one-on-one? Or when we get down to the red zone and the running game still doesn't work and Celek's being double-teamed, why not give Avant a shot on first down to maybe pick up six? There's no law that says he has to be the fourth read on every play.
Or maybe they tried all that, but it didn't look like it because McNabb never saw him open. I don't know.
All I remember, though, is that in the San Diego game, when every other receiver had let McNabb down in some way, shape or form, Donovan said "screw this" and just started forcing the ball to Avant every chance he had. Eight catches for 156 yards that day suggested Avant might have a bit of the "go-to guy" in him, even if we've never seen it before or since.