The Seattle Seahawks were serious about bolstering their pass rush when they signed Cliff Avril — one of the most sought-after defensive free agents — during the offseason.
The defensive end’s much-anticipated season debut with Seattle was an impressive one during the Seahawks’ 29-3 win over San Francisco on Sunday night — especially after Avril missed all of the exhibition season and last week’s season opener against the Carolina Panthers recovering from a hamstring injury.
After racking up 29 sacks the previous three seasons with the Detroit Lions, Avril didn’t waste time making his presence felt at CenturyLink Field against Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers’ dual-threat quarterback who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl last season.
From his right defensive end position, Avril turned in one of the defense’s top plays of the game when he sacked Kaepernick and forced a fumble at the 49ers’ 40-yard line in the second quarter.
The fumble, recovered by K.J. Wright, led to a six-play, 17-yard scoring drive that ended with Steven Hauschka’s 30-yard field goal for a 5-0 halftime lead.
Avril talked about having vision when it comes to facing a quarterback of Kaepernick’s skills.
“You can’t rush him like a pocket passer, like, say, Peyton Manning, that you know isn’t going to run,” said Avril, who had 9.5 sacks in 2012 playing alongside Ndamukong Suh with the Lions.
“I’ve played quarterbacks like that before. I know you can’t get too far up field on him. I was fortunate to pull one out.”
The difference with Avril at end is noticeable.
In last week’s 12-7 win against the Panthers, linebacker O’Brien Schofield had the Seahawks’ lone sack on quarterback Cam Newton, who was hit just three times by Seattle’s defense.
Avril and fellow defensive end Michael Bennett, an offseason signee from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, each sacked Kaepernick, and Bennett also had three tackles for loss.
Money well spent.
“It’s going to be a pretty exciting group,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.