Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has taken on a ton of criticism this year for a variety of reasons. Last week, Clark spoke about how the off-the-field issues had impacted him personally.
The good news? Clark is actually coming along nicely.
In this review, we will detail some of the specific ways Clark wreaked havoc against the New York Giants on Monday night — something Chiefs fans hope will become a common theme moving into the second half of the 2021 season.
During his strongest moments in 2019 and 2020, Clark’s ability to win around the edge with quickness stood out most. He has generally always been able to jump the snap, and less athletic offensive tackles struggle to combat the small shoulder dip move that earned him the majority of his sacks.
Working back from hamstring injuries to both legs during August and September, it took some time for Clark to regain the athleticism we were used to seeing. Monday night appeared to be his return to full form, as he really stressed New York’s offensive tackles with speed.
Frank Clark's patented speed/shoulder dip around the arc made life tough on both of NYG's offensive tackles. More explosive off the snap - indicating he feels healthier after hamstring issues early on. pic.twitter.com/KVNvZMInPW— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) November 4, 2021
To make matters even more promising, it appears he has maintained that same level of quickness he possessed in prior years despite packing on some (good) extra weight.
For those who do not recall, Frank Clark actually lost a significant amount of weight during the 2019 season with an illness. This happened with the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 as well, so it will be something to monitor if Clark becomes ill at any point this season. However, reports from training camp and a simple eye test suggest that the Chiefs’ defensive end is perhaps as heavy now as he has been since joining Kansas City.
For this particular case, the added body mass can be just what a player needs to totally shift his capabilities in a good way. After making things difficult on the Giants’ offensive linemen with speed, he later converted to power in his rush plan and it led to a dominant, highlight-worthy snap:
With Clark carrying increased body weight so well rn, he's able to convert speed to power again more effectively. Hammered the LT with good speed rushes for so long, it left him vulnerable to the inside. This is the Clark KC saw on tape that led to the trade in the first place. pic.twitter.com/VF3OLwUCb6— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) November 4, 2021
Adding onto the repertoire of Clark’s pass rush plan, he flashed a leaping cross-chop move during one snap Monday. It is a good thing Giants quarterback Daniel Jones elected to get rid of the football quickly — because No. 55 was well on his way.
These added elements to Clark’s approach make the job of an offensive tackle much more challenging, so we hope to see more and more as the weeks go on.
Frank breakin' out the leaping cross-chop and was fixing to ruin Jones' night after turning that corner pic.twitter.com/LYXNs7MKcB— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) November 4, 2021
Defeating tight ends with ease
Clark is expected to dominate one-on-one matchups with blocking tight ends when they present themselves, but it hasn’t necessarily always happened that way.
On Monday night, it surely did.
The Giants tried to block 55 with a tight end on some occasions Monday night, and, well.... pic.twitter.com/wJliR2khkM— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) November 4, 2021
Once again, this is just another indicator of how strong and healthy Clark is feeling right now — and will hopefully continue to be. When a player is able to destruct a block so dominantly as he does in the snaps above, it can totally wreck what the offense is trying to execute.
At worst, it creates a messy visual for ballcarriers and quarterbacks to work through, and that helps other defenders around Clark to make plays.
Stunt game effectiveness
The Chiefs have had to become more creative in the way they implement a four-man pass in order to generate pressure more quickly. Having Clark in this current state is especially helpful because no one on the roster is better at timing up his path for twists, as you will see in the plays below.
Tying it all together was how impactful 55 was for Kansas City's stunt plan up front. Found ways to defeat or avoid blocks along the twist path with quickness and effort, ultimately making the QB uncomfortable in some capacity. pic.twitter.com/zhuTUhRpre— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) November 4, 2021
On the third clip, even though Clark doesn’t quite get to the quarterback prior to the throw, he most certainly applies some level of mental pressure and discomfort that ended up making the throw less accurate than it could have been.
The stunt and twist games are a great way to leverage some of the best physical traits Clark possesses, and it really plays out well when he is showing the relentless kind of effort he made famous during Kansas City’s 2019 playoff and Super Bowl run.
The bottom line
Regardless of how you feel about Frank Clark — if you love this football team — you should be happy about the developments in his play the past two weeks. If the Chiefs are going to reach their goals as an organization this year, plays like this from Clark will be a tremendous help.
Now, as the defense also adds help to their defensive end pass rush rotation in the form of veteran standout Melvin Ingram, things could get even more fun. If you have followed our Arrowhead Pride analysis, you know that this team’s front four had not been generating nearly enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
With this post, we can honestly assess the potential of this group now in a positive way. Clark’s current trajectory, Chris Jones’ return to playing more along the defensive interior and the juice Ingram can add to the edge rush mean this football team could now see the best four-man pass rush they have had since 2018.
Time will tell.