Focus on: Cliff Avril

Posted Jul 26, 2013

The Seahawks signed Cliff Avril in free agency to improve their pass rush. But with Chris Clemons on the mend and Bruce Irvin also working at linebacker, the former defensive end for the Lions is working at the Leo spot with the No. 1 defense.

The Seahawks have been expecting big things from Cliff Avril since they signed the pass-rush specialist as an unrestricted free agent in March.

Two days into training camp, those expectations have only increased – in part because Avril is playing the hybrid Leo end spot, with starter Chris Clemons completing his rehab following knee surgery and backup Bruce Irvin also working at strong-side linebacker; in part because Avril is practicing with the No. 1 defense after missing most of the spring OTA sessions and June’s minicamp with a foot injury; but also, and especially, because of how he is playing.

“He’s a great addition for us,” coach Pete Carroll said after Thursday’s practice. “We didn’t get much of a chance to really feel him in the offseason, so today was really the first day. There were a couple of plays I saw and I couldn’t wait to go over and say, ‘You look great, and it’s great to have you out here and competing with our guys.’

“He’s one of those guys who’s going to help us. He is an experienced kid. He’s young enough to be strong and really ready to go, and he is hungry enough to do something to prove it here. And all of that adds up to a guy that will help us.”

Getting to the quarterback is nothing new for Avril. He had 29 sacks the past three seasons for the Detroit Lions. It’s how he’ll be doing it for the Seahawks that is somewhat different.

“Only difference is being able to play both sides,” Avril said after Friday’s practice of shifting from side to side as the Leo end. “I was more of a left end in Detroit. Now I’ve just got to learn to look at the ball on the other side being on the right side. But it’s coming along great.”

As is the transition from Detroit, where the Lions averaged 4.4 victories in his five seasons; to Seattle, where the Seahawks are coming off an 11-5 record in 2012.

“It’s amazing to be here,” Avril said. “We have a lot of great players. These guys really compete every day. And I see why they are so good. So it’s only going to make me better. I’m having a blast.”

Avril’s matchups with Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung already have become must-see plays in practice.

“Cliff has been a phenomenal talent,” Okung said. “I’m really excited to have him. He has a great speed-to-power (combination). He’s an extremely smart player. He really understands the scheme of offenses. You can really see he’s a veteran player.

“He’s going to do great for us. I really think he’s going to make an impact this year.”