Seattle Seahawks General Manger John Schneider went on the John Clayton Show, which airs on 710 ESPN Seattle every Saturday morning, and talked about the role Cliff Avril would play for Seattle. A link can be found at the bottom of the article to the interview.
Schneider mentioned in the interview that Seattle plans to have Avril play the LEO position that Clemons played before his injury and weak-side (WILL) linebacker which K.J. Wright currently fills.
The comment about Avril playing the WILL Linebacker position got me to thinking. How can a 6’4”, 260 pound defensive end play linebacker in a 4-3 defensive system? The player that comes to mind is former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson.
Julian Peterson first played in Seattle during the 2006 season after spending six years with the San Francisco 49ers. Peterson was given a seven-year deal worth $54 million. Peterson was not your typical 4-3 linebacker. His job was to get in the backfield and sack the opposing quarterback as many times as possible. Peterson filled this role nicely with Seattle. Over three years he managed to collect 24.5 sacks. Keep in mind that Peterson was not put in the position of defensive end. He played strictly the strong-side/outside linebacker position. While Avril would be coming from the opposite side that Peterson filled and taking over for K.J. Wright it could allow Wright to slide over to the other side of the field.
I believe Seattle will put Avril in this role in specific passing downs. I do not believe he will be a three down linebacker as Peterson was. He struggled against the run in Detroit. Avril stands at 6’3, 260 pounds and ran a 4.59 so the explosiveness to come off the edge exists. Avril playing outside linebacker also gives other pass rushers such as Bennett, Clemons, and Irvin the opportunity to all play at the same time.
If you put the numbers in perspective, Avril has been a far more productive player than Peterson was. Keep in mind, though, that Avril had a great supporting cast around him playing in Detroit. Avril has played a total of 73 games during a five year career while collecting 39.5 sacks (.54 sacks per game). Peterson during an 11 year career played 158 games and collected 51.5 sacks (.32 sacks per game). Peterson’s play did take a deep decline after leaving Seattle via trade to Detroit, which affected his sack numbers. However, if you take Avril’s sack numbers and average it out per year, that is at least eight sacks per year and I believe playing for one of the league’s best defenses he can increase those numbers in Seattle.
No one can guess how Avril will truly be used and if the WILL linebacker position will work out but I’m certain Carroll will find a spot for him to cause pure mayhem on opposing quarterbacks.