After a two-sack performance this past weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, Cliff Avril claimed sole possession of the team-lead in quarterback takedowns with 4.0, passing up fellow Seattle defensive ends Michael Bennett and Frank Clark, who have 3.0 each.
Avril's first sack against Atlanta helped set up the Seahawks' first touchdown last Sunday, as he stripped the football from the grasp of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The play marked Avril's 24th sack/fumble since 2008, a number that ranks tied for first (Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts) in the NFL. As his team readies to face the Arizona Cardinals this week, Avril was asked if there's any secret to the success he's had stripping the football from opposing signal caller's hands.
"No, I've just been fortunate enough to get a lot of them," Avril said. "I think sacks are great, I think it's one of the best plays in football honestly. But I think being able to get a turnover while doing it is the next step."
Each time he rushes the passer, Avril said he's aiming for the quarterback's elbow. It's a technique he believes gives him the best shot at knocking the football loose.
"A lot of times they don't see you coming and if you hit the elbow or arm hard enough the ball will come out, especially if they don't see you coming," he said. "So I just kind of focus on that while I'm bringing them down to the ground. Just hitting the elbow and wrapping it up at the same time. Again, I've just been fortunate enough to get a few in my days."
Given the way NFL rules protect the quarterback in today's game, Avril said "it's a lot easier" to try to get a sack/fumble than it is to try to forcibly bring a quarterback to the ground, which depending on the hit could lead to a flag being thrown by a referee.
"It's a lot easier actually to try to get a sack fumble than actually trying to bring quarterbacks down because they're so protected nowadays," Avril said. "If you can get to the arm before actually hitting them, that's a plus for you."
The Seahawks aren't the only group benefiting from Avril's pass-rushing efforts this season. For every sack he records, Avril has pledged to build a house in Haiti that's capable of withstanding natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. Avril, whose parents are of Haitian descent, said it only felt right to get involved after Hurricane Matthew hit the Carribean country hard earlier this month.
"Hopefully we can keep it going," Avril said of his sack numbers. "Hopefully we can get more than 10."
Avril is also working closely with Mission of Hope to aid the country's recovery after the most recent hurricane. Anyone wishing to join the cause with Avril can do so right here.
The Cliff Avril Family Foundation and Seahawks Legend Marshawn Lynch helped open an elementary school in Haiti, a project Avril, Lynch, and other NFL players undertook this past summer.