RENTON – Last year was an adjustment in more ways than one for defensive end Cliff Avril, who had been a starter in Detroit but was technically a backup during his first season with the Seahawks.
Seattle’s Cliff Avril says he felt fresh late last season after playing fewer snaps than he was accustomed to. (AP)
There was a tradeoff with that reduction in playing time, one that benefited Avril late last season and could again in 2014 even if he assumes a bigger role in Seattle’s defense.
“This was probably the best I’ve felt going into an offseason after a season in the last, I’d say, three or four years. And that was due to the heavy rotation that we had,” he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” on Thursday.
“I wasn’t playing 80 percent of the snaps, so going down to 50 percent, I think all that played a big part in us being able to do it for so long and doing it at a high rate or whatnot. I felt healthy, though. It was great.”
The fact that Avril wasn’t an every-down player wasn’t an indictment on his effectiveness. According to ESPN Stats & Information, no Seahawks defensive lineman played more than 58 percent of the team’s snaps last season, which is a reflection of that group’s depth – particularly at end – and how Seattle’s defensive-line rotation went seven deep. So while Avril was listed behind Chris Clemons on the depth chart, there wasn’t a significant disparity in their respective playing time.
Still, though, it was a bit of an adjustment at first for Avril. The same was true for Michael Bennett, who signed with Seattle as a free agent days after Avril.
“For me and Mike, I would say, it was all about just putting our pride aside,” he said. “We were starters for the last four, five, six years, whatever the case may have been, and you get here, you’re hot, you’re supposed to be a top free agent and all these different things so you’re like, ‘OK, well, I’m going to start.’ But everything happens for a reason, and once we put our pride aside I think both of us started playing better.”
Avril was particularly productive in the playoffs, which may not have been a coincidence when you consider how some players tend to wear down toward the end of the season. It wasn’t just his strip-sack in the NFC title game. Remember Malcolm Smith’s pick-six in the Super Bowl? It was Avril’s hit on Peyton Manning that forced the Broncos quarterback into that errant throw.
Avril’s role could be different in 2014, the second and final year of his contract with Seattle. With Clemons no longer in the mix, Avril is the most likely candidate to start at Leo defensive end.
“I expect to play a little bit more, I would assume,” he said.
Based on how Seattle’s defensive line has operated, that jump in playing time might not be a drastic one.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.