Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant stabilize Chiefs WR corps

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Coach Andy Reid’s passing game appears on track for better results in 2015 based on the reunion of two former Philadelphia Eagles teammates.

The Chiefs on Wednesday signed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to a free-agent contract, and then brought back wide receiver Jason Avant on Friday, a day after releasing Dwayne Bowe.

Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia; Then-Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Jason Avant (81) against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field. Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia; Then-Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Jason Avant (81) against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field. Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

A pair of former NFL players with an understanding of Reid’s intricate West Coast offense believed Avant and Maclin offer stability and an opportunity for Reid to do more on offense.

“In Maclin’s case, he lit up the league last year,” Former Eagles tight end Chad Lewis told during a Friday evening telephone interview. “Not only coming off an injury, but what he did for the Philadelphia Eagles, he lit it up. He’s a marquee receiver, he’s a No. 1 guy, and he’s also somebody Andy Reid loves and trusts very much. The same thing with Jason Avant, he’s a guy Andy loves and trusts.”

Lewis, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, offers insight from having played for Reid for seven seasons (1999-2005).

Lewis’ former Eagles teammate, wide receiver Todd Pinkston, agreed.

“Those guys already know what to expect,” Pinkston, who played five seasons for Reid (2000-05), told Friday evening in a telephone interview.

The Chiefs and Reid showed trust in the 31-year-old Avant by originally signing the 10th-year pro to a one-year contract Nov. 21, 2014, days after he was waived by the Carolina Panthers. Avant, who played seven seasons for Reid in Philadelphia (2006-12), appeared in five games and totaled 13 catches for 152 yards for Kansas City.

The 26-year-old Maclin established career highs with 85 receptions and 1,318 yards receiving, and tied a career-high 10 touchdowns in his final season with the Eagles. Then-Eagles coach Reid drafted Maclin in the first round (19th overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Pinkston said he believes Reid opened the playbook as the 2014 season progressed from what he observed. But Pinkston said the overall effectiveness may have been hampered because of the adjustment period with some of the Chiefs’ younger players.

“It’s just some guys in the right position at the right time,” Pinkston said. “It takes a couple of years to know the system, and I think once he (Reid) gets all the pieces together, I’m pretty sure it won’t stop now.”

Having Maclin and Avant together is virtually certain to help the Chiefs aerial attack.

And Reid, after Maclin’s Wednesday press conference, pointed out the benefits of having a wide receiver on the roster already fully acclimated to the scheme.

“It always helps, the reps,” Reid said Wednesday. “So the one thing I said in there, this position is tough to pick up quick and you see that all around the league. Normally they hit their stride in their third year. He (Maclin) was able to do that sooner than that, but now into your third year, you’re the absolute expert.”

Maclin’s and Avant’s deep familiarity of Reid’s scheme could only assist the development of promising second-year wide receiver Albert Wilson and second-year running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas.

Wilson, in particular, received mentorship from Avant in 2014; he can now look forward to learning from Maclin.

“I know he’s a guy that kind of came on later in the season last year,” Maclin said Wednesday of Wilson. “He can run, he runs routes, he has a knack for the game. I’m excited to kind of shed some knowledge on him and kind of hopefully take him under my wing a little bit. It’s going to be fun.”

The Chiefs, of course, could still draft wide receivers or continue developing Junior Hemingway, Frankie Hammond Jr., Armon Binns, Fred Williams, Da’Rick Rogers and Corbin Louks.

But even with Avant’s and Maclin’s steadying presence and knowledge of the system, Lewis said their respective signings goes deeper when it comes to Reid.

“More than play calling, more than opening up the offense,” Lewis said. “It’s taking people that fit with (assistant head coach/wide receiver coach) David Culley, with (offensive coordinator) Doug Pederson and with Andy Reid, with what they’re trying to get done scheme-wise, character-wise, the whole package.

“That, I’m telling you, is more important to Andy Reid than anything. He feels like if he can get the right people in the right spot, there is absolutely no stopping both his offensive philosophy and his will as a coach.”