Players to Watch: Genard Avery

With training camp always comes a lot of excitement to see some new faces and to see how they fit on the team. One of those new faces that I'll be very interested in is Genard Avery, who was signed as a free agent this offseason. Specifically, I'll be interested to see how the team uses him and where he gets work.

Avery, you may recall, is a classic tweener who has played all over the front 7 besides having played for two different organizations so far in his young career. At 6'0, 250lbs, he's solid individual to say the least. Yet he doesn't have ideal length for an edge rusher, and really no pass rush technique since he played ILB in college. Speaking of which, I forgot to mention that he moves in space like a much smaller guy. With a 4.59 forty and 6.90 three cone time, he's both fast and nimble enough to look good playing in space.

So what is Avery's role on the team? He's listed as an OLB, so they don't seem to think of him as a situational BUCK ILB. I don't think they signed him to try to coach him up to be a true edge rusher because he honestly doesn't seem to have a lot of promise there since he has so much to learn and really lacks the length and bend to have even much upside even if he did learn. He's either a warm body to provide depth, or they're going to embrace his tweener traits in a hybrid role.

Last year, before Ingram bailed on us, we saw frequent use of an extra OLB on the field, either inside or off the ball positioned to shoot a gap up the middle, and it proved highly disruptive. Avery is nowhere near as good an OLB as Ingram, but he may be as good in that capacity as a lurking ILB/OLB who can destroy blocking schemes with an explosive pass rush from any angle, including an endless variety of stunts, while also providing some more beef in the box to stuff the run, and also viably dropping into coverage against RB's.

The Steelers aren't going to tip their hand by showing everyone a bunch of complex looks, but it will be interesting to see how much Avery does roam around, potentially even getting snaps at ILB, or if he's solely focused on developing pass rush moves. I'd like to see him used in a variety of roles because I think he could be a really effective role player with significant playing time as a pass rushing off ball LB.

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