Kansas City Chiefs fans had lofty expectations for Frank Clark this season. After all, he was given a five-year, $105 million contract before playing a down in a Chiefs uniform. In the three games this season, Clark has totaled four tackles, one sack, and one interception. The stat sheet is assuredly underwhelming for a player meant to replace Justin Houston. Statistically, Clark doesn’t appear to be the best defensive lineman on the Chiefs this year. Emmanuel Ogbah and Chris Jones both have more tackles and sacks this season than Clark. However, a defensive lineman’s statistics do not truly reflect their impact on the game. When you veer away from the box score, the impact of Frank Clark becomes apparent.
Analyzing the Impact of Frank Clark on the Kansas City Chiefs
Scheming for Frank Clark
Numbers can be very misleading. For example, Aaron Donald has five total tackles and one sack this season. Would anyone argue he is no longer a top-five defensive player? Absolutely not. This is because tackles and sacks are largely predicated on luck.
Watching the tape of the Chiefs Week 3 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, it’s evident the Ravens tried to take Frank Clark out of the game. He was consistently double and triple-teamed Sunday. Chip blocks were thrown at Clark as well by Mark Ingram on passing plays. The attention garnered by Clark has played a role as to why Emmanuel Ogbah and Chris Jones have been so effective. They end up in one-on-one matchups with lineman, allowing them to be far more disruptive.
Playing Off the Ball
While the run defense has certainly been a weak point for the Chiefs this season, the pass rush has been solid. Against Baltimore, containing Lamar Jackson was the Chiefs’ focus. They were successful in this, holding Jackson to his lowest rushing total of the season. The defensive ends were tasked with containing the edge, restricting Jackson to stay in the pocket. Clark did a good job of this, tallying his first sack this season when Jackson tried to roll out to the edge Clark had contained.
In the past, the Chiefs have fallen victim to dinking and dunking. This is due to a combination of issues, from poor defensive back tackling to players just being out of position. Justin Houston was placed in zone coverage over 25 percent of the time last season. While Houston is a talented pass rusher, he was not a great coverage guy. Receivers were able to find space in the flats and on screens due to Houston’s poor coverage ability. Frank Clark has not struggled in this role as he has taken away the check-down option for quarterbacks with regularity. His interception in Week 1 came on a check-down pass. If the rest of the secondary can improve in the second and third levels and force quarterbacks to check-down, you will see Clark’s numbers improve.
It’s easy to look at the numbers and call Frank Clark a bust. He has one of the top five salaries on the team, so we expect to see production like one. Being a defensive lineman, however, is often doing the little things right that will get overlooked. Despite this being his first year in a new system, with a new team and coaching staff, I expect Clark to only improve as the season goes along. So before writing Frank Clark off, try keeping your eye off the ball. It is then that you will see how valuable Clark is to the defense.