Cliff Avril has been a key member of the Seattle Seahawks defense since he was acquired from the Detroit Lions in 2013.
The defensive end is coming off an 11.5 sack season and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year NFL career in 2016. But the Seahawks may have to face a harsh reality in the coming weeks–they may have to play without him.
Avril, 31, sustained a neck/spinal injury on Oct. 1 against the Indianapolis Colts when quarterback Jacoby Brissett accidentally hit Avril’s chin with his foot. Avril suffered “serious stingers” and numbness down his arms as a result of the injury and could be heading to the injured reserve list in the impending future, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
For defensive coordinator Kris Richard, losing Avril will be a tough blow to the Seattle defense.
“He was a major part and he is a big piece of our puzzle,” Richard said following Thursday’s practice. “You hear the cliché time and time again, next man up and it is just very difficult. It is very difficult, but we have to keep moving on and we have to rely on the guys’ active, yes next man in line. I think it is going to show who has been preparing because now that the next man is going to get his opportunity, what are you going to be able to is really what it is going to come down to. Then again, it is going to be our responsibility as coaches to do make sure we consistently put the guys who are going to replace him in spots that they can be successful.”
With Avril eyeing an extended time away from the football field, more opportunities will likely come to backup Frank Clark.
Clark, a 2015 second-round pick, produced 10 sacks last season as a rotational player and will take over as a starter during Avril’s absence.
The third-year defensive end started against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5 and had one sack and three tackles. Clark also showed athleticism against the Rams, when he pounced on quarterback Jared Goff to force a fumble that was later scooped up by Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
If Avril is placed on the injured reserve, expect Clark to fill in for at least the next eight weeks.