On Thursday, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo complimented defensive end Frank Clark’s performance on Sunday. His sack of quarterback Matt Ryan was a high point of the Chiefs’ 20-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Speaking on Friday after practice, Clark had the opportunity to discuss his play — and the high level of performance we’ve seen from many of his teammates. Despite having just played one of his best games as a Chief, Clark remains focused on his own areas that need improvement.
“We took the loss last week,” Clark recalled, “so of course I am being more critical on myself than the normal person would when you win — but at the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. You can sit back all day and tell yourself how good you are at certain things, but people don’t want to look themselves in the mirror and say what they need to work on. So it’s still improvement all around that I feel like I need to do so I can help my team win the game.”
During the offseason, the Chiefs said goodbye to a number of key players. Their roles have largely been filled by younger talent. Clark is thrilled with the early performance of the defenders — particularly rookie defensive end George Karlaftis.
“We feel real good,” Clark boasted. “When you look at it, guys are playing well together [and] we’re meshing well. It’s a newer group; we’re meshing with a few other guys from the last four years that I’ve been here. It’s a good group.
“We’ve got our rookie George. He’s filling in, doing his job [and] just trying to figure it out. And as a whole, we just continue to improve. I feel like we’re showing some spurts of a team that wants to stop the run. I [also] feel like the past two games, we’ve shown that we really want to rush that passer when we get that opportunity.”
Clark recognized some important career milestones — one pending and one recently accomplished — for Carlos Dundalp and Chris Jones, while also praising the performance of a sometimes forgotten teammate.
“It’s great watching Carlos on his road to 100 sacks,” he remarked, “[and] watching Chris break 50 — [and] watching our interior guys step up. You’ve got Khalen Saunders — one of the guys we don’t really talk about a lot, but an underdog. He had one of his best games — probably the best game of his career — last week. We lost, so a lot of that gets swept under the rug — how good some of these guys have played.”
Outside of his own position group, Clark also gives credit to the Chiefs’ young defensive backs — particularly cornerback Jaylen Watson and safety Juan Thornhill. Clark is even more impressed with the leadership he’s seen in the secondary after the departure of safety Tyrann Mathieu — who was the face of the defense for three seasons — in free agency.
“35 [Watson] — he’s continued to impress,” Clark observed. “Nobody’s been talking about how good Juan’s been playing — and filling in for the [leadership] role in the secondary with Tyrann being gone. It’s a lot of good things happening — but like I said, it’s still early, so it’s nothing to talk about right now. We kind of got our heads down chopping wood right now.”
But Karlaftis has provided Clark with a totally new experience during his eighth season. Clark said that throughout his career, he has never had a teammate who is more eager to learn from him.
“Some of these guys that come in,” he noted, “you spend all year, sometimes, picking their brain — and you never know where they are. You don’t understand what type of player they are, their life at home, where they come from, why they even want to play football [or] what’s really their goal in this. George has done nothing but show why he wants to do this [and] show why this is important to him. He loves football.”
Clark joked that the way the rookie defensive send continually watches film could endanger his health in an unexpected way.
“I always play with him,” he claimed. “I’m like, ‘Dang, dude — you’re going to run into a wall watching film, bro.’ He’s walking around the building with his head down [watching film] all the time because he just wants to get better. He reminds me of me.”
Clark said that Karlaftis never stops trying to learn.
“He’s still asking me football questions when it’s like eight at night,” Clark complained jokingly. “But then it’s dope — because I’ve never had that. I’ve never had a rookie challenge me as a veteran — asking the hard questions. Asking me, ‘How did you do this to get better?’
“I’m thinking like I’ve got to really formulate an answer for this and really think about stuff. I thank him for that — because I would have never experienced it if I didn’t have him come in. The type of person he is — how eager he is to learn, how eager he is to get better? That’s how I feel about my guy.”