Detroit Lions: 5 best individual defensive seasons since 2010

Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions
Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Cliff Avril – 2011

Statistics: 16 games played, 11.0 sacks, 36 total tackles, 6 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 2 total touchdowns

Retrospective: As Lions fans continue to lament the lack of a consistent pass-rush that has hampered the team in recent years, thoughts of an-in-his-prime Cliff Avril repeatedly screaming off the edge must be difficult to reminisce upon. Few who have donned a Lions uniform this millennium have done it at a higher level, and Avril was at his absolute best in 2011.

One of a handful of holdovers from the Lions’ miserable winless 2008 season and its laughable defensive unit, Avril showed enough promise to remain with the squad under the new regime. At 6-3 and 260 pounds, he had an ideal build for an edge player in the Lions’ wide-nine defensive attack, and he used his physicality and athleticism to wreak havoc in his fourth season.

Part of an excellent defensive front including a young Suh and rugged veterans Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams, Avril punished opposing tackles with regularity all season, leading the Lions with 11.0 sacks. It was the most by a Lions player since James Hall’s 11.5 in 2004.

But the production didn’t stop there. Avril’s violent hands and nose for the ball helped him force six fumbles while recovering three and even bringing one back for a touchdown in a road win against the Denver Broncos.

Perhaps most memorably, Avril’s unexpected pick-six of quarterback Philip Rivers of the then-San Diego Chargers put the stamp on a Lions home victory on Christmas Eve as they clinched their first playoff berth since 1999. Avril’s on-field big-play celebration, an homage to his alma-mater Purdue, probably never felt more satisfying for him in a Lions uniform.

The Lions likely regretted not offering Avril a contract extension after 2011 in hindsight, and he would leave to the Seattle Seahawks in 2013 after playing one year on the franchise tag in Detroit.

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Which Lion do you think had the best defensive season over the last decade? Let us know in the comments section below.