It’s not a secret that Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has been somewhat of a disappointment to the team’s fans after the team gave up a first and second-round pick — plus a swap of third-round picks and a five-year, $105 million dollar contract — to acquire Clark from the Seattle Seahawks in April.
Through four games, Clark has notched nine tackles (four solo), a sack, a pair of quarterback hits and an interception. That’s not quite the level of production fans were expecting.
There’s been a lot of discussion about these numbers in the last couple of weeks, with some analysts noting that Clark has been targeted with double-teams to reduce his effectiveness — something that Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo essentially acknowledged when he spoke to the press on Thursday.
Alright, just re-watched every pass rush snap from Frank Clark against the Lions.— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) October 4, 2019
A quick breakdown of his pass rush snaps:
One-on-one: 18 snaps
Double teamed: 4 snaps
Stunts: 5 snaps
Chipped: 4 snaps
”We tried a couple of things last week,” he explained. “I don’t know if you noticed, [but] we had him inside — I mean, we’re trying to find ways to find a one-on-one match for him. That’s not always possible. Offensive coaches are pretty smart in this league — and I think that’s going to continue. What hopefully happens is that it opens up something for somebody else — and when that somebody else gets enough of those, maybe they turn their attention away from Frank. But we’ll see.”
For his part, Clark feels the pressure — and frustration.
“You can always feel frustration,” he told the press. “I’m a competitor. I compete to be the best — that’s simple. At the end of the day, I don’t really trip — if I can say that. I don’t really trip as much because I understand this game. I’ve been good at this game for a minute playing these last five years. I’ve been playing at the high level for the last four. I’m one of the best in the league to do it and I’m going to continue to be.”
“Sometimes it gets frustrating,” Clark added. “but that’s why we’ve got a long season. You have to keep on going.”
Spagnuolo said that Clark is approaching the situation as he should.
”I think he’s been a pro,” said the coach. “Now look... in the heat of the battle, I’m doing my job while he’s doing his — so only he knows for sure. But I told him at one time, ‘Look, you’ve got to let the game come to you.’ I used to say this to Brian Dawkins all the time. ‘You’re better than the game. Let the game come to you.’”
”It’s him helping me understand [that] I’m not the first guy that’s been in this position,” said Clark of Spagnuolo’s coaching. “I’m not the first guy in NFL history that has had a big contract [with] a new team.”
But Clark also said that it hasn’t exactly been a surprise that opposing teams are trying to limit him.
“It comes with success,” he said. “It comes with making plays. I didn’t think I was going to be able to make plays my whole life and the attention wasn’t going to come. I was kind of warned. Mike [Bennett] and Cliff [Avril] kind of warned me: if you keep playing like this, you’ll get the doubles next — back when they were getting all the attention. That just comes. You have to figure it out at the end of the day. My job is to figure it out and continue to compete at the highest level.”
Clark said that while his opportunities have been limited by the way other teams have schemed against him, he still needs to be sure he’s taking full advantage of the ones that he gets.
”My thing is staying down, staying focused and staying aware of the situation,” he said. “So when the time comes, I’m not missing the plays — I’m not missing the opportunities to make the plays I need to make. So we’re not talking about the complaints or the excuses.”
In the meantime, Spagnuolo still has a defense that needs improvement.
“Right now, it’s all about the unit,” he told reporters. “We want the unit to function better. We’re chasing improvement right now. if we can just get better than we were last week, I’ll be happy with that.”