Glass Half-Empty: Is something wrong with Frank Clark?
The Chiefs are now on their bye-week after a terrific 8-1 start and after so many good things to talk about, naturally we're going to want to write about something bad to ruffle the feathers of fans on the bye-week. Today, that thing would be Frank Clark. Frank Clark had an up and down season in 2019 before coming on in the playoffs and while everyone has been enjoying the Chiefs' success this year, we have overlooked a lot of the negatives because people don't really want to hear about that after a win. Well, Frank Clark has been pretty average this year and it really isn't even debatable.
Before we get further into this, it is fair to speculate whether Frank Clark may have an undisclosed injury or not, and if he does then that would be understandable. However, until it becomes public, we can only make a judgement based off of what we know and besides, if he does have an injury then that would be more cause for concern as well as it seems he has been hurt or sick for about 75% of the time since he has gotten here.
Let's start off by simply looking at Clark's numbers this year. So far, Frank Clark has recorded 15 tackles, no forced fumbles, 1 pass defended, and 4 sacks through nine games. In the last 5 games, Clark has recorded 7 tackles and 1 sack. That is pretty underwhelming when you consider the fact Frank Clark is making over $100 million. For comparison, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald also make over $100 million so let's look at their stats. Mack has recorded 20 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 7 sacks so far this year. Donald has recorded 26 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 9 sacks. I understand it is unfair to compare Aaron Donald to anyone but you still see my point.
Some of my personal complaints with Clark are that he lacks closing speed and has missed a handful of tackles throughout his time in Kansas City and the fact that his only pass-rush move recently seems to be to try to run around the tackle as fast as he can which results in him getting completely pushed away from the ongoing play. Sometimes this actually allows him to be in position for a fumble recovery like the one against Denver or to discourage the quarterback from dropping back further. Either way, it has been frustrating to watch. Clark seems to be playing weak at times and an instance that comes to mind is the Jets game where Clark recorded 0 pressures and got completely flattened by rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton on a run to his side.
Frank Clark has been disappointing as a pass-rusher and I don't think anyone can disagree. He's just been a non-factor in too many games this year to be called an elite pass-rusher. Clark is on pace to finish with 30 tackles and 6 sacks this year. That is unacceptable for a player of his caliber. Clark will still have some flashy plays every here and there but we're all still waiting on that big Frank Clark game that everyone predicts every week. I get it, though, Frank Clark is solid against the run and he does a lot that doesn't show up on the stat sheet. Frank Clark is supposedly a great edge-setter but we haven't seen a ton of that besides a few tackles at the beginning of each game and then you don't see him for the rest of the day. A lot of this is because a majority of running plays from opposing teams this year are to the opposite side which would indicate teams are trying to avoid running at Clark which is why he is valuable as a run-defender. In spite of that, the Chiefs run defense is ranked 30th in the league this year and Clark isn't doing much about it.
The Double-team argument isn't really cutting it anymore either. This chart actually indicates Clark is in the lower half in the league among starting defensive ends when it comes to double-team rate. This chart is from last season but it is unreasonable to think much has changed given the lost depth at defensive end for Kansas City. The difference is Frank Clark isn't beating the double-team at a good enough rate.
Now, the run defense can't all be put on one player, but that's why some people are upset with the money poured into Clark because if you're only going to have one competent run-stuffing defensive end then it doesn't matter if the other side is completely incapable of putting together any kind of resistance against the run. The funds could have been allocated better. On top of that, the Chiefs have had trouble at hitting home and taking down the Quarterback this year. The Chiefs are averaging 2.1 sacks per game this year which ranks 20th in the league. That is a tad concerning when you remember the fact that the Chiefs are the first team in NFL history to have two players making over $20 million per year on the defensive line in Frank Clark and Chris Jones. In defense of the Chiefs, they have been thin at defensive end this year due to injuries.
Ultimately, if the Chiefs keep winning then it won't really matter and I expect the pass-rush to pick up at some point. Frank Clark could still prove me wrong and he has had some great seasons in the NFL, but right now he is being placed under a microscope until he starts being a game-wrecker like his superstar counter-part Chris Jones.
P.S. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge the fact The Chiefs should have paid Emmanuel Ogbah who already has 7 sacks this year? *sigh*