By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — Pass rush specialist Cliff Avril got an early introduction to bookend offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini during pass-rush drills during the first days of training camp, competing in some intense battles with the his new teammates.
But the physical tussles are all in the name of improvement, as Avril is penciled in as the Seattle Seahawks’ starting Leo defensive end. With Seattle’s sack leader for the past three seasons, Chris Clemons, still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while rehabbing from ACL knee surgery, and the team’s second-leading pass rusher from last season, Bruce Irvin, suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, Avril understands there’s pressure for him to lead the pass rush charge at the start of the year.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do my whole career, is being that guy anyway,” Avril said. “So I’m up for the challenge. It’s great that we have four other guys that can pass rush real well, so I think we’re all going to help each other. For me, it’s just getting better and trying to take on that role.”
Avril also is undergoing a bit of a transition. He played defensive end in a similar, 4-3 defensive front during his five years in Detroit. However, his role will change some with Seattle, where defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will ask the 27-year-old Purdue product to rush from both sides of the ball.
Avril played mostly the left defensive end position while in Detroit.
“He’s really going to help us,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s an experienced kid. And he’s young enough to be strong and really ready to go. And he’s hungry enough to do so something and prove it here, so all of that adds up for him to be a really good prospect that helps us.”
Added Giacomini: “He’s good, man. He’s got speed. We played against each other when we played Detroit, and he’s going to help us tremendously. It’s good to go up against these great pass rushers.”
Avril did not participate in most of Seattle’s offseason program in order to rest a nagging planter fascia foot issue. But Avril said the injury is a thing of the past now, and has not affected him so far during training camp.
“I’m out here practicing and pretty much good to go,” Avril said. “It hasn’t really bothered me. I’m doing my little rehab still on it, but nothing serious as of right now.”
Avril also is dealing with a different set of expectations. In Detroit, he experienced just one winning season in five years with the Lions. But after signing a two-year, $13 million deal to join Seattle in free agency, Avril finds himself on a young team with Super Bowl aspirations.
“I see why the expectations are what they are,” Avril said. “But for us, it’s taking it day by day, getting through each practice and getting better individually. And not looking past anybody.
“We have these preseason games, and we have Carolina (Seattle’s regular-season opener). We’re not looking past anybody. So if we can win each game, obviously we’ll be in the Super Bowl. But we have to take it day by day.”