Eagles rookie McNutt the next Jason Avant?

Marvin McNutt keeps an eye on the ball as Nnamdi Asomugha defends during the afternoon session. Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Marvin McNutt keeps an eye on the ball as Nnamdi Asomugha defends during the afternoon session. Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 31, 2012

BETHLEHEM — When he was making the transition from quarterback to wideout after his freshman year at Iowa, Marvin McNutt watched film of a guy whom Hawkeyes wide-receivers coach Erik Campbell used to coach.

"That was one of the first films I watched, one-on-one tapes and red-zone one-on-ones. How he worked his technique, his release and his hands … Coach Campbell told me he wasn't the fastest guy, but he was one of the hardest workers, that he came to work every day," McNutt recalled.

The receiver McNutt watched was someone Campbell had coached at Michigan — Jason Avant.

Now, McNutt, a sixth-round rookie, is Avant's teammate with the Eagles.

"McNutt is intelligent. His quarterback background really shows," Campbell said Sunday night. "Avant is a great route-runner and he's one of the best guys I've ever coached." He added that both are "hand catchers."

Avant said he believes a Campbell-coached receiver has a leg up when he gets to the NFL.

"A lot of guys get here that never really understand coverages, never understand releases," Avant said. "Those things, he teaches you in college. I didn't have to come here and learn them. I knew what it was like to write reports over the summer on cornerbacks. He taught us how to prepare for the game."

McNutt found himself in the spotlight this weekend, after third-year wideout Riley Cooper went down with a broken left collarbone Saturday, corner Curtis Marsh falling on Cooper after an incompletion.

Eagles coach Andy Reid said Cooper will have surgery Monday to place a plate on the break. Reid estimated a 6-week recovery period, which would at least take Cooper up to the Sept. 9 season opener at Cleveland. In the interim, there are extra reps for the dozen healthy wideouts the Eagles have in camp. Of that group, Reid acknowledged that McNutt (6-3, 216) is the only guy who has Cooper's size (6-3, 222).

Reid said the Eagles will not add to their receiving corps, as Cooper heals.

"We're going to let the young guys get some work in and see what they can do," he said.

McNutt said he "probably wouldn't have been anywhere" without Campbell, who helped convince him to make the switch from quarterback. One factor in winning him over was that Campbell had coached a lot of wide receivers who went on the NFL, including Avant, Mario Manningham, Amani Toomer, Steve Breaston and Braylon Edwards.

It wasn't easy for McNutt to give up on being a quarterback. As a high school junior, McNutt led Hazelwood Central High to the Missouri finals, defeating Kirkwood High and senior wideout Jeremy Maclin, 36-28. McNutt suggested this would be something Maclin definitely would remember, and he was right.

"They beat us," Maclin said. "They didn't throw the ball very much. They threw like two routes — a tight-end out and a slant route. Their running back ran over us, that game. They protected [McNutt] as a quarterback."

Avant, 6-foot, 212, said McNutt's body type makes him a different-style receiver from Avant. "Different body types and different skill sets," Avant said. "But at the same time, you can tell some of the things coach Campbell has taught him, as far as releasing, high-pointing the ball, those types of things. He understands coverages as well."

When the Eagles drafted McNutt, Avant said he got a text from Campbell.

"He told me to watch out for him, and he told me [McNutt] was going to listen to me," Avant said. "McNutt is a great listener."

Campbell said he's really happy to have two of his guys together. He said he told McNutt he would "have a big brother there."

At the time of the draft, observers figured McNutt would challenge for Cooper's roster spot, but that talk faded during minicamp and OTAs. Cooper looked really good, having obviously put in a lot of offseason work, and McNutt looked, well, slow.

Reid said he thought that had to do with McNutt's unfamiliarity with the offense, and his size. "He's not going to look like DeSean coming off [the line]. He's a bigger body, but he's very physical to the ball," Reid said. "When you put the pads on, that's his game."

"Spring went all right," McNutt said Sunday. "I really just learned the offense. Kinda moving a little slow. If you don't know anything, you can't really move as fast as you want. Once you kind of get used to the situation and get used to the style of play, you can move a little faster."

McNutt said he is faster than he looked in OTAs.

"Oh, definitely. I got a longer stride, so it's not going to look like I'm as quick as most guys, anyway … I broke away from some people [in college]," he said. "You might not have the fastest 40, but football speed is different."

Actually, McNutt clocked a 4.42 at the NFL Scouting Combine, which is just fine for a receiver his size. But his combine profile notes that he "can struggle off the line if he isn't decisive and powerful with his first step."

Like most reserve wideouts, Cooper gets many of his snaps on special teams. And like most drafted rookies, McNutt didn't play special teams in college. But he said he is eager to learn, and has been getting a lot of work there since he came to the Eagles.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.

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