The Lions Defensive Line should be much improved this season. The additions of KVB, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh will go a long way.
But it's not those three that I'm talking about. This is about Cliff Avril.
This past offseason I heard a lot of Lions fans grumbling about trading Avril, and I never understood the logic. Too many fans want to cleanse the team of anything Millen related and that's understandable.
But you don't just throw away talented players!
Why would the Lions trade the best player on the worst line in the league? It just didn't make sense. Instead, they did what actually does makes sense: Surround him with better players and allow him to face one-on-one matchups to utilize his speed.
Cliff is going into his third year and has actually been pretty productive when he has been healthy.
His first year in the league produced five sacks and three forced fumbles with 23 tackles. He did this while only starting four games, while playing in 15. He led all Rookie Defensive Linemen in sacks. Pretty impressive if you ask me, considering the talent or lack there of around him.
In his second year he came up with five-and-a-half sacks, four forced fumbles, three passes defended, and 41 tackles. He did this while only starting 11 games and playing in 13. Once again with a lack of any talent around him. His numbers improved from his first year to his second. That's exactly what coaches look for in a young player.
So in two years Cliff Avril has 10.5 sacks, 7FF, 3PD and 64tkls. Those are almost better numbers than DE Ray Edwards (13 sacks, 5FF, 7PD, 94 tackles) from the Vikings had in his first three years in the league.
I'm using this comparison because there were plenty of you out there hoping we would trade Cliff and acquire Edwards. Cliff Avril is better than Ray Edwards!
(Note: Edwards finished his fourth year last year, and still only produced eight-and-a-half sacks. We all know how good his D-Line is and he still hasn't produced 10 sacks. Avril has more forced fumbles in two years than Edwards has in four years, leading seven-to-six.)
This is the year where Cliff takes the big leap!
Cliff has gained 10 pounds of muscle to put himself at a healthy 270 lbs. This should help him stand up to the run with much more consistency. And while he has gained this weight, rumor is he hasn't lost any of his speed coming off the corner.
If Cliff can stay healthy for a whole 16 games, we should see 10-plus sacks from this guy. He will see the most one-on-one matchups, and with his speed he should win a ton of those.
Imagine if Avril played in Minnesota next to the Williams Wall and Jared Allen. Well this year we have our own version with Corey Williams, Suh, and KVB.
For all those who wanted to trade Cliff, by the end of the season you'll be thanking your lucky stars the Lions finally have decision makers who know what they're doing.
This is the year we see the Real Deal. This is the year we see the real Cliff Avril!