Former Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant was in Mayfair last week for an Inside the Birds podcast and believes the team is headed for a very good season.
“Are they a Super Bowl contender? Yes,” he said. “One-hundred percent.”
Avant joined podcast hosts Geoff Mosher and Adam Caplan at the new Mayfair blackbox theater, 6243 Frankford Ave.
Avant, 36, played at Michigan and was drafted by the Eagles in 2006. He played with the team through 2013, played with the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs (reunited with former Eagles coach Andy Reid) in 2014 and finished his career with the Chiefs in 2015.
Today, he runs Launch trampoline parks in Delran and Deptford, New Jersey and Newark, Delaware. He is also part of the Eagles pregame show on 97.5 The Fanatic.
Mosher and Caplan were in Mayfair back in April for a pre-NFL Draft show with Eagles running back Corey Clement. They followed up the Avant podcast with one predicting the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
Avant said Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is still trying to overcome the mental challenge of returning from a back injury suffered last season.
In training camp, of course, Wentz and other quarterbacks wear red jerseys, and defensive players are not permitted to hit them. Avant said, “The verdict is still out,” as to whether Wentz will slide or endure hits when he runs with the ball in the regular season..
Wentz’s athleticism and ability to extend plays make him special, in Avant’s view. Avant, though, thinks Wentz, who was an MVP candidate before getting injured in 2017, would do best by passing the ball to the first player he sees open.
“Carson wants the big play,” he said.
That big play could come with speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson, with Avant saying that Wentz and Jackson are still working on their timing.
If Jackson can have a few very good seasons in his second stint with the Eagles, Avant said, he could become a Hall of Famer.
Avant likens wide receiver Nelson Agholor to Jackson in the way they can gain separation.
“He’s the purest route-runner,” he said. “Nelson Agholor is always open.”
Alshon Jeffery, he said, is a bigger receiver who nonetheless is faster than he appears.
The signing of veteran quarterback Josh McCown was a good one, Avant believes. Caplan predicted that McCown will be Wentz’s backup, even when Nate Sudfeld returns from a wrist injury. Avant sees rookie quarterback Clayton Thorson relegated to the practice squad.
As for the rest of the receiving corps, Avant likes the size of rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (J-Jaw for short), the speed of tight end Zach Ertz and the playmaking ability of backup tight end Dallas Goedert. He thinks the two-tight end set can be particularly effective.
As long as the Eagles win, Avant said, the receivers will not complain about the number of times they are targeted. That could change if they start losing.
“You’re not going to satisfy everybody on this team,” he said.
In terms of the running game, Avant compares rookie Miles Sanders to LeSean McCoy, adding that he’ll need to learn to pick up the blitz.
“Miles is the future,” he said.
Darren Sproles will be effective catching balls out of the backfield, Avant believes, adding that he wouldn’t be against trading Jordan Howard for holdout Houston Texans Pro Bowl linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.
The Eagles drafted offensive lineman Andre Dillard in the first round, and Avant is a big fan.
“I love the kid,” he said.
Avant likes Dillard so much that he suggested he be inserted at left tackle, with veteran Jason Peters moving to guard. Such a move could extend Peters’ career by a year, Avant reasons, since he’d be going against slower defensive tackles.
Fans at the podcast had a chance to win gift cards to Jenkintown’s Rosnov Jewelers by answering trivia questions. They had to guess Avant’s number at Michigan (8), the round in which he was drafted (fourth) and two undrafted Eagles receivers he played with in the era from 2006-08 (Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett). ••