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Eagles defense might have new ‘joker’ in Genard Avery

The edge rusher lined up as a pass-rushing linebacker three times against the Bears, and was productive in the small sample size he received.

Genard Avery (right) has had a half-sack in his short time with the Eagles.
Genard Avery (right) has had a half-sack in his short time with the Eagles.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Genard Avery might not be fully up on the Eagles’ terminology yet, but “joker” was probably a term he learned rather quickly.

Avery played only three snaps against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 3, a few days after the Cleveland Browns traded him to the Eagles for a 2021 fourth-round pick.

In those three snaps, he was a “joker,” or a designated pass rusher lined up as a linebacker. The Eagles used Joe Ostman in that role during training camp before a torn ACL ended his season. At 6-foot and 250 pounds, Avery has played both linebacker and defensive end in his career.

“You guys know we did a little bit of that with Joe in the preseason, and [Avery] physically fits that,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He does have some linebacker skills. He’s a little bit of a hybrid player. We haven’t had a lot of those guys here. He can drop in coverage a little bit. He can play some linebacker. He can rush.”

Avery combined with safety Malcolm Jenkins for a sack on one of his three snaps against Chicago. He had 4.5 sacks last season with the Browns as an end-linebacker hybrid. But the Browns switched defensive coordinators, and Avery fell out of the pass-rushing rotation as the staff shifted to a more traditional 4-3 scheme.

Avery has had time to learn the rest of the defensive terminology during the bye week, but Schwartz wouldn’t commit to Avery’s continuing to come out as a “joker.”

“Week by week, we’ll see where it takes us,” Schwartz said. "Maybe it will be a little bit more; maybe it will be a little bit less. We’re excited to have him, and when he did go out there, he was productive for us.”