KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Wide receiver Jason Avant is new to the Chiefs organization, but he isn’t experiencing coach Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense for the first time.
The 31-year-old Avant played seven seasons for Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles (2006-12), and his reunion with Reid four days after being released by the Carolina Panthers proved a natural fit.
“The advantage Jason has is that he’s been in the offense and he knows the majority of it,” Reid said. “He’s got to get in there and knock out some of the new things, and then he’s in shape. He’s been playing so it’s just a matter of getting familiar with the quarterback and just going. I don’t think he’d have any problem playing this week.”
Avant, of course, isn’t the final solution to a passing game that enters Week 13 averaging 189.5 yards per game, which ranks 31st in the league, or a wide receiver corps devoid of a receiving touchdown.
His presence, however, offers an area that won’t show in box scores. The nine-year pro provides institutional knowledge on how to work within the scheme to some of the Chiefs’ young wide receivers, including rookie Albert Wilson, second-year pro Frankie Hammond Jr., third-year pro Junior Hemingway and rookie running back/wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas.
And Avant, who said he knows 65 to 70 percent of the current playbook, takes his role as a potential mentor seriously.
“I think the first thing that you have to do is you got to play and lead by example every day in practice,” Avant said. “Your example gives you a right to speak. Once you lead by example, you show that you work hard, you show all those things, then will a person listen to you. I think there’s often too many times where people talk a bunch and their example doesn’t basically practice what they preach.”
Avant said his commitment to preparation on a daily basis should open the door to questions from younger teammates, and he’s more than happy to offer advice.
“I’m willing to because that’s what you want to do,” Avant said. “You always want to leave the game better than when you started.”
Avant won’t have to wait too long, as he said some of the younger wide receivers already approached him since his arrival in Kansas City to inquire on route techniques.
And the veteran wide receiver has a captive listener in Wilson, who admits to studying Avant while learning how to play the position before entering the NFL.
“It’s just me being a player of the game before I got here,” Wilson said. “There are certain receivers that I watched play and when he was in Philadelphia, he was one of the receivers I watched play.”
Wilson also admits to choosing Avant’s then-Eagles wide receiver profile to use in video games, and he let Avant know when the two met.
“It was just something that just popped up,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “You finally get to meet a guy that you’ve been watching for a long time.”
For his part, Avant took it in stride.
“It’s kind of funny where people playing with you on video games,” Avant said. “I remember telling (former Eagles quarterback) Donovan (McNabb) that I played with him on a video game and now guys are telling me that.”
Wilson said on the first conversation he immediately came away with how detailed the veteran is surrounding how he approached the job.
“You can tell he knows what he’s doing at all times,” Wilson said. “That’s the type of thing (assistant head coach/wide receiver) coach (David) Culley is looking for, so that’s the type of things I look into to when I find an older receiver that has the experience and do the things right that the coaches want. He’s been in the system for seven years and he knows his way around.”
Avant also offers value outside of a classroom or position meeting environment.
While the Chiefs wide receivers spend time together studying weekly game plans, Avant becomes a de facto player-coach based on his extensive knowledge of what the coaching staff expects.
“It gives me another teacher on the field,” Wilson said. “In practice and on the field where the coaches aren’t as hand-to-hand as they are in the classroom, you have somebody that is that good that can help you and other players on the team. That’s something unique.”
Ultimately, the Chiefs have a veteran player who can contribute in numerous ways on and off the field.
And it wouldn’t surprise to see Avant having an impact Sunday night against the Denver Broncos in a pivotal AFC West matchup.
In the meantime, Avant is more than happy to be in Kansas City with a head coach and coaching staff he clearly holds in high regard.
“The Chiefs always were my No. 1 choice,” Avant said. “Everything doesn’t always work out the way you want it to work out. I was glad to be able to come here on the second go-round and this is where I always wanted to be. I always wanted to play for coach Reid and coach Culley. It’s a dream come true for me.”