Chiefs mailbag: WR Donnie Avery’s value down the stretch

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Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery’s eventual return to the lineup offers more than just another weapon on offense. What his presence brings to the team headlines this version of the mailbag.

The Chiefs are hopeful wide receiver Donnie Avery can practice in the coming days after he has missed four straight games following a sports hernia procedure on Oct. 3.

Avery’s pending return to the lineup certainly won’t hurt the passing game considering the seventh-year pro currently ranks fifth in receptions (14) and fourth in yards receiving (156) despite the missed time.

The Chiefs turned to third-year pro A.J. Jenkins to fill in for Avery, but Jenkins hasn’t set the world on fire.

Jenkins has four catches for 50 yards on seven targets since taking over for Avery, and he was held without a catch or target in Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams.

The Chiefs (5-3) are now set up for a potential playoff push despite the rough 0-2 start to the season. Kansas City sits a game and a half behind the Denver Broncos (6-2) and a half game ahead of the San Diego Chargers (5-4) in the AFC West with eight games to go.

And having Avery available for the second-half push should prove valuable given his years in the league.

That point was reinforced by Chiefs coach Andy Reid on Monday when a reporter asked Reid what the Chiefs have missed the most from Avery in the past month.

“It would be experience,” Reid said. “That would be it. But I think this has been very valuable for A.J. and he’s done a very nice job for us and every week he gets a little better and more confident and feels more comfortable in there. So I wouldn’t take anything away from A.J. to make that statement, but Donnie has been around the game a long time.”

A team can never have enough speedy defensive backs in today’s pass-happy NFL, but those players aren’t available on waivers entering Week 10.

Still, the Chiefs actually have a solid collection of speed on the back end of coverage.

Defensive back Ron Parker clocked a 4.36 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day workout in 2011; strong safety Eric Berry clocked a 4.40 at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine; and free safety Husain Abdullah ran a 4.63 at the 2008 Combine.

Kelcie McCray, who contributes mostly on special teams, ran a 4.52 at his Pro Day in 2012, while Kurt Coleman ran a 4.55 at the 2010 NFL Combine.

The cornerbacks aren’t slouches, either.

Rookie Phillip Gaines runs a 4.38, Jamell Fleming a 4.43, Chris Owens a 4.44, Marcus Cooper runs a 4.45 and Sean Smith a 4.47.

The result of the combined speed from the Chiefs defensive secondary contributes to NFL’s No. 1 defense against the pass, which allows 199.4 yards passing per game.

There are other factors playing a role in the league’s top defense against the pass.

The pass rush, led by outside linebacker Justin Houston’s league-leading 12 sacks, has totaled 27 sacks on the season, which ranks tied for third-most in the league.

Additionally, the offense’s ability to control the clock has kept the opposing offense off the field and the defense fresh.

So, while defensive backs with world-class speed are a fantastic luxury to have, the Chiefs aren’t shabby at all with the current cast when combining all the factors that led to success through eight games.

And that takes into consideration Berry missing five games with a high ankle sprain, Owens missing three straight games with a knee injury and Fleming missing Week 9 with a hamstring injury.

It has been a team effort.

Running back Knile Davis logged 10 offensive snaps against the New York Jets, a far cry from the 54 snaps he had in Week 3 when Jamaal Charles was out with an ankle injury.

But that’s the whole thing with how the Chiefs will utilize Davis on offense outside of his role as the kick returner.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to get Davis consistent touches late in a game with the result no longer in doubt or even more touches throughout the course of a game to keep Charles fresh.

A healthy Charles, however, will command the workload in virtually any scenario.

Meanwhile, Davis’ offensive snaps have been declining since Week 3 with Charles in the lineup to no surprise.

But he’s still productive out of the backfield, totaling 196 yards rushing and a touchdown on 47 carries during that span:  

Offensive Snaps Rushing Attempts Yards
Week 4 30 16 107
Week 5 7 2 6
Week 7 16 10 25
Week 8 22 16 49
Week 9 10 3 9

 The Chiefs, of course, were on a bye in Week 6.

The big thing to consider first is the Chiefs have to grant permission to a potential suitor to talk to defensive coordinator Bob Sutton while he’s under contract.

Nevertheless, the 63-year-old Sutton is no secret.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan offered a money – yet humorous – quote during a media conference call with Chiefs beat writers on Oct. 29.

Ryan raved about Sutton, who spent 13 seasons with the Jets. Ryan also said he was surprised the second-year Chiefs defensive coordinator didn’t get a head coaching job last season.

“Hopefully he’ll get one this year,” Ryan said. “I hope it’s not mine, but he really is a great coach.”

That’s extremely high praise for Sutton, especially when also considering Chiefs coach Andy Reid tried to pry Sutton from the Jets to join his staff in Philadelphia.

And the way the Chiefs defense is performing by overcoming injuries to rank statistically as one of the NFL’s best units only reinforces Sutton’s coaching skills.

Sutton also has prior head coaching experience at the college level while at Army (1991-99). He previously served as the Golden Knights defensive coordinator (1983-90).

The bottom line out of all this goes back to the original point.

It wouldn’t surprise if Sutton is on another team’s radar, but they’ll have to go through the Chiefs to interview Sutton.

First-round pick Dee Ford’s strength is rushing the passer, so the bigger conundrum is finding him playing time behind Pro Bowl outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

Ford’s defensive snaps through eight games reflect that:

Defensive Snaps

Special Teams Snaps

Week 1

3 1

Week 2

6

3

Week 3

13

1

Week 4

4

1

Week 5

6

0

Week 7

0

9

Week 8

16

7

Week 9

0

7

Also keep in mind Ford is adjusting from playing defensive end in college to playing linebacker in the NFL.

While the rookie hasn’t had much playing time this season, the good news is Ford has an opportunity to learn from two of the best outside linebacker in the league.

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