Why Cliff Avril thinks the Seahawks should sign Clay Matthews and ‘Snacks’ Harrison
Through two weeks of the 2020 season, the Seahawks’ offense has been electric, primarily the passing game. The defense – particularly the defensive line and pass rush – hasn’t taken a major step forward like many were hoping.
Seattle has allowed an average of 485 yards per game and over 415.5 passing yards. The defense has three sacks, but only one has come from a defensive lineman. Now, the Seahawks will be without two of the main pass rushers as defensive end/outside linebacker Bruce Irvin is out for the season with a torn ACL and defensive end Rasheem Green, who led Seattle in sacks in 2019 with four, is on injured reserve for at least three weeks due to a stinger.
Someone who knows about top-tier defenses and getting after the quarterback is former Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Dave and Moore on Friday to discuss the team, primarily the defense. He started first by discussing the loss of his former teammate, Irvin.
“Losing Bruce is huge,” Avril said. “Although he didn’t have any sacks, the experience and just being able to understand when pass plays will be and be played and different things like that, it just hurts the team. And also the leadership.”
Avril believe the pass rush will get more sacks and quarterback pressures as the group starts to get acclimated, and said the team would be smart to add two rumored veteran free agents. The first being former Packers and Rams pass rusher Clay Matthews, a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro who has 91.5 career sacks since entering the NFL in 2009. Avril said Matthews can replace Irvin in a another way aside from just on-field production.
“I think you get some veteran leadership. I don’t think enough coaches in the NFL in particular give enough credit to just experience, just being in a space where you know the game of football,” he said. “I know sometimes it’s cheaper to go with the younger guys, but experience definitely plays a big role. So yes, I think going after somebody like a Clay Matthews who’s consistently around quarterbacks, who’s consistently being that guy who can get sacks.”
The Seahawks, with Irvin out, are very young at defensive end, and Avril believes Matthews can show young players how to get the job done.
“It’s one thing for the coach to tell you something, but it’s another thing when you see a player tell you something and then go out there and do it,” Avril said. “Yes, I think going after Clay would be huge on multiple fronts and he’d be reuniting with his (college) coach, (Pete) Carroll.”
The other rumored free agent is 2016 All-Pro defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison, who ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported is visiting the Seahawks next week. Bob Stelton asked if signing Harrison could help get the pass rush going as he’d require more attention on the interior of the line, potentially opening things up for edge rushers. Avril said bringing Harrison in would be more simple than that.
“I think it’s a depth piece, right? You think about all those years we were pretty good on defense, we had a lot of depth on the D-line from the Super Bowl year on out, right?” Avril said. “I think the case here is having another veteran on that D-line and adding a little bit of depth on the interior guys.”
The Seahawks started the season with just three defensive tackles on the roster with Jarran Reed and Poona Ford starting and second-year player Bryan Mone as a backup. Seattle recently promoted Anthony Rush, also in his second year in the NFL, from the practice squad, bringing the total to four.
“You need another guy in there to just give these guys a wind,” Avril said. “I’m looking at snap counts and J-Reed is pretty much out there 90% of the snaps and that’s not going to be good for the long haul of the season. I think it’s a little bit more than just the pass rush, it’s just allowing these guys to be able to survive the rest of the season as well.”
Listen to the full interview, which includes Avril’s thoughts on new Seahawks safety Jamal Adams and why he thinks quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL MVP through the first two weeks of the season, at this link or in the player below at the 34:29 mark.