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Appreciating Cliff Avril

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The following kudos are long, long overdue.

Lord of the Dance, only cool
Lord of the Dance, only cool
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In lieu of a StatHawk column, which I love to write because numbers are the coolest, here is instead an ode to the most underappreciated Seahawk, maybe of all time --

-- Clifford Samuel Avril.

How shall we appreciate thee, Clifford? Let us count the ways. Three ways.

1. Appreciation through numbers

At first glance, Avril has not exactly lit up the stat sheet since joining the Hawks one game in March 2013. Statistically, here are the -- ahem -- Cliffs Notes:

2013 2014
Games (started) 15 (2) 16 (16)
Tackles + Assists 25 30
Sacks 8.0 5.0
FF 6 1

But digging a little deeper shows how -- ahem ahem -- deep an impact Avril has already had...

2013 team rank 2014 team rank
Sacks 2nd 4th
PFF grade 7th 6th
QB hurries (PFF) 2nd 2nd
QB hits (AFA) 1st 1st

...and how close to the top of his game he is, right now.

2015 stat NFL rank
Sacks 1 12th
PFF grade +11.3 1st
Stop % (PFF) 9.1 5th
QB hurries (PFF) 11 2nd
QB hits (AFA) 5 1st

Yes, that last table is for the whole league. No, I don't care that the season is only three games old.

Supporting visual evidence shows us Avril has great play awareness. Unfooled by trickery here:

Making the play on a short run in a big game right here:

One of the things that makes Avril more valuable than his raw numbers indicate at first glance is his prowess in run defense. He diagnoses quickly and disengages quickly, so doesn't need to be saved for passing downs. Effect is, he can be rotated in and out, but doesn't need to be; he and Michael Bennett bring versatility AND consistency to defensive packages.

Football Outsiders' data backs up Avril's well-roundedness. For 2014, FO rated Seattle's defense first in the league in runs at the left end (so to the right on offense), then 10th in 2015.

2. Appreciation through pictures

Yep, Sometimes a player can affect a play without it showing up on the stat sheet. In this semi-important sequence from the recent past, Avril forces the quarterback to release the ball a split second earlier than intended. The result is probably imprinted on the back of your eyelids already.

Since we're reliving an epic game -- of all the Cliff Avril strip sacks, this one, which somehow led to zero points, might be my irrational favorite. For its timing and beauty.

You probably know the first play from scrimmage of Super Bowl XLVIII was a scoring one. Memories!

What your memory might not yet have stored is that Avril's the first Seahawk to arrive on the scene of the crime. Because of course he is.

And here's what the football-playing humans looked like one glorious moment before the equally glorious Malcolm Smith pick-six.

If you're going to remember one picture from this post, you could do a lot worse than the one above. If you're going to hang on to one written line from today, make it this one: When there's an important play in recent Seahawks franchise history, chances are good Cliff Avril is at its epicenter. Dude was probably blocking alongside Matt Hasselbeck during Beastquake and we just never noticed it.

Gratuitously, more moving pictures!

A) In Which Jonathan Martin Never Stands A Chance

Watch especially how Avril sees Martin standing almost straight up, gets low, then uses physics to direct him toward the quarterbackial area. Once the geography is right, Avril discards the extraneous lineman and captures the flag.

B) Use Your Tools

It's not always a problem when a lineman's in the way. Not if you deploy him correctly.

C) Cliff Diving Inside

"Oh, so you'd like me to go to the outside eh"

"No thank you"

D) Cliff Avril & Michael Bennett, BFF's

This is the kind of stuff a lasting friendship is built on.

E) Cliff Avril & Michael Bennett, BFF's Again

"Race you there!"

"Hey who invited KJ?"

Matchup nightmare, trying to block those five guys, especially if MB and CA line up next to one another, with your blocking back on the wrong side.

/pause

On an salient note, here are some sobering images from the Seahawks' last two playoff appearances that ended without Cliff Avril in the game.

Sorry in advance. Avert your eyes if necessary.

At least it's Gronk and not some other guy.

Wouldn't you have preferred...

You would've.

3. Appreciation through human decency

Cliff is in the second year of a 4-year, 28.5 million dollar contract extension. He is making $7.125 million annually. He turned down a reported 3/30 deal from Detroit before coming here for 2/13. Other elite 4-3 defensive ends (Mario Williams, JPP, Robert Quinn) make twice as much as him. Easy to argue he's not maximizing his income.

It really just looks like, on the surface, that he wants to be here. Specifically here in Seattle. Could be that he's simply one of those guys who likes winning, playing, having fun, more than chasing dollars. And the last complaining about his contract that we heard was that time when

...

On a team full of vocal All-Pros and assorted Pro Bowlers, quarterbacked by one of the faces of the NFL itself, Cliff Avril can easily be overshadowed. But he's quietly out there, in the larger community, running around doing cool stuff, like Pete might say.

Avril's family foundation (linky) is set up to encourage healthy living for kids suffering from juvenile diabetes. It's a cause close to his heart; his mom has diabetes and his grandmother died from the disease. Last week his annual Dining To Make A Difference banquet at the Columbia Winery sold out; tickets were $500.

And just this Wednesday, the Seahawk appeared on Q13's morning show to launch #12s4Good. Link to the cool project is here, and your quick rundown goes like this -- post a story of someone doing good deeds on social media with the #12s4Good hashtag and you'll be entered to win memorabilia each week. May seem like a small gesture, but I'll wager you've noticed that social media can be used to tear people down. Apparently that's a thing. Maybe #12s4Good plugs a hole in the dam.

Watch the video below if you'd like, without having to leave our friendly confines.

More somberly: Cliff lost his father this offseason.

Not much to say, except go ball out, Cliff.

Obvious Conclusion

There should be more Cliff Avril jerseys.