RENTON — Pass rush specialist Cliff Avril got an early introduction to bookend offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini during pass-rush drills the past two days, competing in some intense battles with his new teammates.
The tussles are all in the name of improvement, as Avril is penciled in as the Seattle Seahawks’ starting “Leo” defensive end.
Avril understands there’s pressure for him to lead the pass rush charge at the start of the year. Seattle’s sack leader for the past three seasons, Chris Clemons, is on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from knee surgery, and the team’s second-leading pass rusher from last season, Bruce Irvin, has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
“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.”
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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, but his role will
change some in Seattle, where defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will ask the 27-year-old Purdue product to rush from both sides of the defensive line.
Avril played mostly at left defensive end for Detroit.
“He’s really going to help us,” Seattle 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 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 so he could rest a nagging plantar fascia foot injury. But Avril said the injury is a thing of the past and has not affected him 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 is dealing with expectations that are different from those in Detroit, where he experienced one winning season in five years. After signing a two-year, $13 million deal with 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 (in the 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.”