The Kansas City Chiefs‘ starting defensive end Frank Clark is now halfway through his two-game suspension for legal issues that date back to this past summer. On Thursday, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo spoke to the media about how the team has tried to offset his absence.
Spagnuolo pointed out that in his 4-3 scheme, there isn’t just one player who will step in to eat up the available snaps when Clark is out — because even when they are at full strength, the Chiefs utilize a rotation at the defensive end to keep guys fresh. So with Clark out, it just meant that players who were further down in the rotation received more playing time than they normally would.
“We had Malik Herring who went in,” recalled Spagnuolo, “and Carlos [Dunlap], and George [Karlaftis] and Mike Danna— really those are the four guys that played D-end last week without Frank.”
With the exception of Dunlap — who tallied 1.5 sacks — last Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans was a relatively quiet outing for the group. Spagnuolo acknowledged that Kansas City could have used Clark’s athleticism to get home more consistently against the Titans’ rookie quarterback Malik Willis.
“I think we missed some of Frank’s edge speed in those passing situations,” said the coordinator, “and we really want to get him back. But [I was] really pleased with what the guys have [done].”
Herring and the rest of the edge rushers have another opportunity to make their mark this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will start another young quarterback: Trevor Lawrence. This time around, the defensive ends will hope they can pin their ears back and live in the Jaguars' backfield.
Spagnuolo said that he will be watching to see how his young players respond.
“I think it’s advantageous — sometimes when this happens — for guys to come in and get some reps and find out what they are. I think we found out a lot about Malik Herring.”