KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith acknowledged this week he didn’t know much about new Chiefs wide receiver Donnie Avery because they had never been teammates until now.
But Smith, the new Chiefs quarterback, knew one important fact about Avery: He can run fast. And for someone who plays Smith’s position, that’s enough.
“I’m happy to have him as a teammate,” Smith said. “As a quarterback, you love the fast guys.”
New Chiefs general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid love the fast guys, too. One of the first things they noticed after arriving in Kansas City and studying the players was that the Chiefs didn’t have a true deep threat at wide receiver.
Devon Wylie, a fourth-round draft pick last year, and Jamar Newsome, who started two games for the Chiefs last season, are fast. But they aren’t Avery fast.
Avery recorded a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at the University of Houston in 2008. That’s seriously fast.
So the Chiefs wasted little time after the opening of the free-agent market in signing Avery, who caught 60 passes last season for the Indianapolis Colts.
“With Andy’s offense, you need some speed at receiver,” Dorsey said. “You need one or two speed receivers. The way the National Football League is today, the game (is faster), and in order to compete on a weekly basis you have to be able to take the top off defenses, as they say, with speed. That’s kind of what we’re looking at here. Donnie Avery can take the top off the defense with his speed.”
Avery was among the NFL’s league leaders with seven dropped passes last season. But the Chiefs will live with the occasional drop if Avery can deliver some big plays and attract some defensive coverage away from Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs’ other receivers.
Avery is a likely starter along with Bowe. Reid said recently that Dexter McCluster would also play.
“I like McCluster,” Reid said. “I think he’s a good football player and he has a role on this football team. I’ve got some things in mind for him.”
McCluster, who is quick, could flourish in Reid’s offense. But he’s not particularly fast, which again pointed to the need for Avery.
Avery was a second-round pick of the Rams in 2008 and played two seasons in St. Louis before tearing his ACL in a preseason game in 2010. He missed that season and was cut by the Rams before the following season.
“I like the way he fought through adversity and came back from his injury, and the production he had with the Indianapolis Colts,” Dorsey said. “I just can’t wait for he and Alex to get together, and he and Dwayne Bowe to get together, (and) just start this whole thing working again.”
Avery spent one season in Tennessee and one in Indianapolis before joining the Chiefs.
He said it took him some time to regain his speed after the injury. But he said he recently ran the 40 in 4.25 seconds.
“I got faster after the injury,” Avery said. “It was just (a matter of) building the confidence and putting the memory back. It scared me a little bit, but my main focus was getting that speed back, getting those quick-twitch muscles back, and it was all good.
“Andy Reid, I am a big fan of his work. I know he likes to throw the ball from (working with) DeSean Jackson. He likes to get the ball deep, he likes fast guys. He called me and I said, ‘I’m here.’ ”
Jackson played for Reid when he coached the Eagles. Like Avery, Jackson is fast and he put up some big statistics in many of his seasons in Philadelphia.
The Chiefs won’t necessarily expect that from Avery. They do expect him with his mere presence to make a difference.
“He has tremendous speed, and we had a couple receivers there in Philadelphia that could run fast and make plays down the field,” Reid said. “Donnie possesses that speed and that’s a big part of his game.
“You’re talking about one of the fastest guys in the National Football League. He came off a pretty severe knee injury when he was with the Rams and he recovered from that. You saw his production last year with Indianapolis. I would expect him to pick up and continue to build on what he did there.”