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Frank Clark’s second half surge is powering the Chiefs pass rush into the Super Bowl

After spending four years as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, DE Frank Clark was traded to Kansas City for a first-round pick, as one of the newest members of the defensive overhaul that highlighted the 2019 offseason. Clark was awarded a lucrative five year 105 million dollar contract coming off of a 14 sack season in 2018. With the trade of Dee Ford to San Fransisco and release of Justin Houston, and the big numbers put up by Clark in Seattle many fans had high expectations for him prior to the season starting. However, the season did not start as Clark or any of the Chiefs fans had imagined. Through the first six games of the season, Clark recorded just one sack and hadn’t made as much of an impact as was expected by Chiefs fans. Clark would get going in week seven vs Denver and after missing two games, with a nerve issue in his neck that affected his shoulder and a virus that caused him to lose close to 20 pounds, Clark would record five sacks through the last seven games of the regular season. Clark would continue to step it up with four sacks in two postseason games. After watching the film on Clark I will breakdown some of his best plays from a season of highs and lows, but make no mistake the critics have all been silenced as we look ahead to the Super Bowl.

Clark would draw a lot of attention early in the season, and for a good reason. He finished 2018 in Seattle with 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, and ten other tackles for loss. These kinds of numbers will put anyone on the radar. In his first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Clark was able to come up with an interception off of a tipped pass. It bounces off of the Jaguars RB and off the hands of Tanoh Kpassagnon, but Clark never stopped paying and makes a real heads up play to get to the ball.

A few weeks later Clark would come up with his first sack at home against the Baltimore Ravens. On a key third-down, Clark countered back inside with a spin move and literally jumped on the back of MVP front runner Lamar Jackson. Clark showed a burst of what he had been last season in Seattle: a combination of power, violence, and quickness.

Unfortunately, Clark would not record another sack until week seven against the Denver Broncos. It was around this time Clark was scrutinized by some around the city and in the media for his lack of production and lack of impact, especially in back to back losses in week five and six to the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans. Unknown to most Clark was battling a string of injuries that dated back to training camp. The major one was described as a pinched nerve that never fully healed and put him in immense amounts of pain and took away some feeling in his right arm and severely affected his power, which is a huge part of his play. As the season would go on Clark would look to start to recover and he made a major impact in a blow out win against the Broncos. This time it comes off of a well-timed stunt where he penetrates back inside he gets the offensive linemen on different levels splitting them for the big sack.

Unfortunately again Clark would miss weeks eight and nine with what was called a stomach virus for which he had to see a specialist. It was around this time it was reported that he lost around 20-25 pounds due to the virus. Clarks playing weight runs around 255-265 pounds and while it may not seem like much for a player that in the past has relied on brute strength and powerful play losing this weight can have a severe impact on his play. When Clark would come back from his stomach ailment the loss in weight would force him to change the way he rushed the passer a little bit.

The above play shows how that while Clark was playing lighter than he has his entire career he was able to use it to his advantage, particularly in his speed rush department. It was around this time when we started to see a new pass rush in his arsenal, and one that is not always common. Clark doesn’t have blinding quickness but his little head dip move has been highly effective at getting past tackles. He makes himself a small lower target for the tackle to try to connect with and when the OT overextends his reach it can lead to Clark beating him around the arc. We have seen this move a number of times since the game against the L.A. Chargers in Mexico, where he wasn’t credited with a sack but forced an interception from Phillip Rivers.

One thing that has been underrated all season long is Clark’s ability and tenacity in the run game. I have highlighted his ability to play the run in other articles, especially my Defensive Review of the AFCCG. Here the Oakland Raiders try to run a pin and pull run play where they will pull the OT around the edge and block down on Clark with a WR. Clark immediately recognizes it and blows the play up in the backfield for a huge loss. Clark looks to be getting some strength back as he has looked very good in knocking OTs into the backfield and stopping runs before they get going. He doesn’t always come up with the tackle in the stat sheet but his presence is felt.

New England was in a two-minute offense below as time was winding down in the first half. Everyone in the stadium knew it was going to be a pass, especially Frank Clark. From a stand-up end, Clark gets a FANTASTIC jump off the ball. The OT isn’t even able to get a hand on him as Clark bends the arc and slams Tom Brady into the turf. This was an iconic moment of a great season and also what some considered a turning point for the defense as they were able to vanquish the demons of last year by being the driving factor in the win vs New England this year.

Clark would finish the regular season strong with a sack in all but two of the Chief’s final seven games to give him eight on the season. The playoff bye week gave him time to further recover and set the stage for his best game yet as a Chief. In the Divisional Round vs the Houston Texans, Clark put on one of the all-time great playoff performances at Arrowhead Stadium by recording three sacks in the game. He was able to do so with traditional moves but also ferocious determination.

The above play runs forever but as the secondary holds downfield Clark keeps chasing the ever-elusive Deshaun Watson and is finally able to get him down for the big time sack. In the game in which the team showed no quit one of their biggest offseason pick-ups showed the heart that this team and city have needed on the defensive side of the ball. The injury to Chris Jones put a lot of pressure on Clark to provide the pass rush but he stepped up huge.

To cap his surge into the postseason Clark put a terrifically vile move on Pro Bowl Tackle Taylor Lewan to close out the AFCCG. Clark had been going with power moves all day but in the games closing seconds, he goes with a fake inside spin which froze Lewan and allowed him to get to Ryan Tannehill for the sack to send the Chiefs to Miami.

It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Chiefs and Frank Clark has been right in the middle of it all. As the season progressed he looked more and more like he is back to full health and playing the best football of his life at the best time possible. Including two playoff games, Clark now has a full 16 games as a member of the team and has 12 sacks to show for it. His four sacks in the postseason lead all players headed into the Super Bowl. He and the KC defense will have another daunting task ahead of them in Super Bowl 54 against the San Fransisco 49ers. They have answered the bell thus far and will need to do so one more time. This defense has gotten nastier and more aggressive each week and a lot of that has been due to the mentality instilled by Clark and the passion and relentless play he has shown.

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