Cliff Avril gets upset, rightfully so in my opinion, when media or fans try to downgrade his production last year by saying it was a function of teams double-teaming Ndamukong Suh.
Avril will tell you that he did most of his damage without the benefit of blitz packages. He will tell you that he was chip-blocked by tight ends and backs as much as anybody.
Well, the good folks at Football Outsiders — Mike Tanier specifically — reviewed the tape of all of Avril’s sacks last season. And thanks to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert for bringing it to my attention. Here’s what Tanier found:
All but one of Avril’s sacks came on a four-man rush.
He was double-teamed on one of the 11 sacks.
Suh was double-teamed on five of the 11 sacks and DT Sammie Hill was double-teamed on four of the sacks.
Six of the 11 sacks were strips, plays where Avril didn’t bring down the quarterback but instead knocked the ball out of his hands — thus the six forced fumbles.
Tanier’s conclusion — Avril’s production stands on its own. No need to qualify it. No need to question why the Lions were so desperate to keep him out of free agency.
Seifert said it better than I could:
“As we’ve discussed many times, the Lions ran their defense last season based on a four-man pass rush to provide maximum personnel in coverage. A four-man rush can’t have a weak link, and whether or not you think Avril is an elite player, he proved last season that he could consistently beat single blocks. When the Lions say that Avril is a good fit for their scheme, that’s what they mean.”