No Lions player had more of an impact on defense this season than Cliff Avril.
His 11 sacks led the team and his six forced fumbles were second most in the NFL to only the Ravens’ Terrell Suggs (7). Avril also recovered three fumbles, the second most in the league.
Avril became the first Lions player to register 10 sacks and have at least one fumble return touchdown and one interception return touchdown in the same season. He’s only the sixth player since the NFL started registering sacks as a statistic in 1982 to accomplish that feat, and the first since 2006 (DeMarcus Ware).
Avril’s monster season earned him the Lem Barney Defensive MVP Award, as voted by his teammates.
“He’s a young player just coming into his prime,” said Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. “Each year he’s gotten better and each year he’s having a bigger impact and making bigger plays. It’s not just the sacks and the fumbles, either, it’s also the plays Cliff makes down the field.”
Avril has improved his sack total in each of his first four seasons since being drafted by the Lions in the third round out of Purdue in 2008. In 47 career games (44 starts), Avril has 30 sacks, 129 tackles, 14 forced fumbles, 12 passes defended and two touchdowns.
“It’s one thing to have double-digit sacks, but Cliff had more of an impact than just that because of the forced fumbles,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “It goes hand-in-hand with getting sacks a lot of times, but Cliff has a knack for it and that gave us a big push.
“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to defensively, but we got a lot of turnovers and Cliff was a big part of that. Cliff is also a guy that was drafted before I got here, but we’ve developed him. He’s developed with us, he’s become a better player every year, he’s added to his arsenal every year and he’s been a hard worker.”
Avril was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Week after a Week 8 victory over the Broncos that saw Avril record two sacks, two forced fumbles and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Avril is a free agent this offseason and Lions general manager Martin Mayhew says he’s planning on offering him a long-term contract.
The defensive MVP award is given in honor of Lem Barney, one of the premiere defensive backs in the history of the league. As a rookie, Barney intercepted 10 passes returning three for touchdowns and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Barney played in seven Pro Bowls and had 56 interceptions in 140 career games. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Tags: Cliff Avril, Jim Schwartz, Kris Kocurek, Lem Barney, Martin Mayhew
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »