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Cliff Avril says the Seahawks defense is full of young talent but their veterans ‘still have it’

Cliff Avril says his teammate Jarran Reed has taken "huge strides" this offseason. (AP)
LISTEN: Seahawks DE Cliff Avril on growth along the d-line

With the Seahawks players still running around the VMAC in shirts and shorts, Cliff Avril isn’t ready to make any major predictions about how their many defensive rookies will fare this season. The defensive end doesn’t mind saying that he and the other veteran holdovers “still have it,” though, as he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton and Gee Scott on Friday.

“Our core group of guys still have it,” Avril said. “I feel like we still have it from Bobby (Wagner) to Sherm (Richard Sherman) to Earl (Thomas) – all those guys. I think we all still have that fire, that passion. I think the potential is there, or whether we just stay healthy, I think we can be one of the best defenses again.”

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Avril spent about a month of the offseason traveling and doing charity work, some of which came with his teammates in Haiti, where both of his parents are from. That included friend and fellow defensive end Michael Bennett. Avril said both he and Bennett are in “good shape” and have learned the importance of pacing themselves.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so we actually understand that,” Avril said. “And we understand that it takes some time to heal up. You have to let the body heal up and you have to get away from football a little bit to be able to come back and go full-go.”

Avril said he thinks the defensive line has “potential to do some great things,” pointing specifically to himself, Bennett, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh as pass-rushers.

As for the second-year players along the line, Avril said 2016 second-round pick Jarran Reed and fifth-round pick Quinton Jefferson have “taken some strides.”

“Jarran Reed has definitely taken some huge strides,” he said. “Q, you know he had a little injury last year, so that kind of set him back a little bit, but mentally both of those guys are in tune, they’re in it. And you can definitely see the growth as they’re understanding and growing as a football player – and as adults.”

Avril added that he thinks rookies Malik McDowell and Nazir Jones are “gonna be good.”

“Obviously they are young, young,” he said. “They have a lot of learning to do but I think the potential is there. I think the guys, they’re smart, they’re athletic. It’s just all about bringing them up to speed and seeing how fast they can get it but the potential is there. I think they are great guys to be able to come in and make some things happen, but that’s to be seen still.”

Other highlights from the conversation:

On the new defensive line: “To add the rookies, the big boys in the middle, on run downs and being able to stop the run and pass rush, I think the potential there is there. But the biggest thing is obviously going out there and making it happen. Everything looks good when you have shorts and no helmets on, but you have to go out there and make it happen.”

On the rookie defensive backs: “It’s early. It’s only been a couple days since we’ve seen ‘em but I see the leadership that Sherm and those guys have with those guys and to see how those guys and to see how they’re following those guys’ lead, I think they can do some good things. But again, it’s early. We’ll see once camp breaks and we’ll see what those guys are able to do.”

Is Sherman in a good place? “Yes, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be. I think the misconception is that the whole talks and all these different things, but the fact that we have an open-door policy, he knows what’s going on, he understands his situation, he understands what situation he’s in right now. So I think he’s definitely in a great head space. I can’t tell any difference in his attitude or anything like that, he’s ready to make things happen.”

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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