Cliff Avril: What Seahawks lack, what defense must do going forward

Dec 28, 2022, 11:20 AM
Seahawks Cardinals...
Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals avoids a sack by Darrell Taylor of the Seattle Seahawks on January 09, 2022. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

It was a very eventful K.J. Wright Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM on Wednesday as not only did Wright join Mike Salk in studio, but he brought legendary Seahawks pass rusher Cliff Avril with him to talk about the team.

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After a Christmas Eve loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seahawks find themselves 7-8 with two games remaining after dropping five of their last six games. The playoffs are still a possibility, but Seattle will need to beat both the New York Jets and the Los Angeles Rams and get some help from across the league.

Avril dove into what he’s seen from the Seahawks overall this season, including in this recent poor stretch of games, and shared his thoughts on what he’d like to see from the team moving forward.

First off, what is this current Seahawks team lacking?

“Consistency. That’s what they lack, consistency,” Avril said.

After starting the season 2-3, the Seahawks won their next four before dropping five of their last six heading into this Sunday’s game with the Jets. The consistency just hasn’t been there on either side of the ball, Avril said.

“Those four- to five-game stretches where they were killing it and they were doing their thing, their defense was playing really well. They had just changed up the technique up front and different things like that,” he said. ” … (Quarterback Geno Smith has) looked great for the majority of the season and then he has spurts where, OK, he might throw a pick here or there or he’s not making the right throw or whatever. But it’s consistency. It doesn’t look like coach (Pete) Carroll ball when we talk about turnovers, we talk about tackling and consistency.”

A big reason for that? Experience.

“That’s due to like the lack of leadership and experience. They’re a young team and that’s what you should expect from a young team with guys that don’t necessarily have (a lot of experience),” Avril said. “You look at Bruce (Irvin). Bruce is 11 years in … As pass rushers, the next guy is 25 years old. So, like, they need more (experience).”

With just two games remaining this season, it seems unlikely we’ll see a dramatic change in the Seahawks’ defense this year. But what about moving forward? Avril broke down what they need to do this offseason when it comes to the scheme.

“What I think you do is … not even change the scheme; you change up the technique in the scheme to go with the guys that you have,” he said. “… You keep the scheme and change up the technique and then everybody plays off of that. Because the guys that you have are penetrators. They’re guys that get upfield, that are disruptive. You can’t have those guys catching blocks. That’s a whole new technique, a whole new thing for these guys.”

Darrell Taylor

After missing all of his rookie season, 2020 second-round edge rusher Darrell Taylor made a big impact for the Seahawks in 2021 with 6.5 sacks in 16 games.

Due to that good showing in his first season on the field, there were high hopes he’d be a major part of Seattle’s pass rush in 2022.

Taylor hasn’t had a bad season by any means as he ranks second on the team in sacks with six, but he’s lost playing time to both Uchenna Nwosu and Irvin and hasn’t taken the big step forward many were expecting.

So what does Avril, one of the best pass-rushers in Seahawks history, think of Taylor and his game?

“I like DT because he has some stuff that you can’t teach, you can’t coach. He’s got real good lean, he’s naturally a really good athlete,” he said. “… That can only get you so far.”

Avril told Wright and Salk that early in his career, a veteran gave him some advice as it pertains to playing in the NFL. That veteran told him that the first three years of an NFL career, you can survive off athleticism. The next three years after that, it’s a mix of athleticism and the mental side of the game. After that, it’s nearly all mental.

Taylor may be in his second NFL season in terms of actually playing on the field, but it’s his third year as a pro.

“So he’s at that point where he has to learn the game now,” Avril said. “It ain’t about just beating guys off athleticism. Understanding the scheme, understanding the protection, understanding how guys block …  Like, understanding how to rush, right? That’s where he needs to get to now.”

Listen to the entirety of this week’s K.J. Wright Show at this link or in the player below.

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