There may be a change at the slot receiver position this season that may cost WR Jason Avant some playing time.
Avant has been a very reliable target for the Philadelphia Eagles ever since he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He’s been Michael Vick’s go to guy on third downs and seems to catch every ball thrown to him. However, Avant has never put up impressive numbers, which makes people believe that Chip Kelly might want to look at someone else to occupy the slot receiver position. In his seven years as a pro, Avant has only 10 touchdowns and just two in the past three seasons. However, he has been able to have 50+ catches and 550+ yards in the last three seasons, but this might not be good enough for Kelly.
Avant is going to have a lot of competition this offseason with newly acquired WR Arrelious Benn and rookie TE Zach Ertz.
After seeing a few videos from the Eagles organized-team-activities, Benn looks really good. He looks strong, explosive, and gets in and out of his breaks very quickly. I know that the pads are not on during organized team activities, but Benn will certainly be pushing Avant for the slot receiver position. Benn has never been able to live up to the hype of being a second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Last season he only played in eight games and registered just four catches for 26 yards. His size will be the advantage for him moving forward in his career. The one thing that Kelly loves in a receiver is their blocking skills. If Benn can prove that he can block on screens and running plays than he could take reps away from Avant this season. If Benn can learn to use his size as an advantage than the coaches will definitely take a closer look at him.
Ertz might be used in the slot as well to take advantage of smaller cornerbacks. The second-round pick is a freak athlete who will probably play more in the passing game than blocking in the running game. The way he runs routes is incredible for a man of his size and can definitely play in the slot and create mismatches for defenses. He should be a great red zone target, which is something Avant has never been able to become. Ertz played a lot in the slot at Stanford and he seems very comfortable there. Kelly should be able to create certain packages that may involve Ertz in the slot more than Avant.
Also don’t be shocked to see Damaris Johnson in the slot as well if Kelly wants to add some speed to the already explosive offense. Johnson is a tough competitor despite his size (5-foot-eight, 170 pounds). He has shown glimpse of play making ability and can add another vertical weapon when needed. Johnson has a year of experience playing in the slot and outside receiver. If Kelly wants to add speed to the slot receiver position than that might not be good news for Avant.
So Avant has a lot of competition this season, which makes me believe there might be a chance of him losing his job at slot receiver. I always liked Avant as a player, but there are players that will push him for some playing time in the slot.