With Michael Bennett (knee) held out of the Seattle Seahawks’ game Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, there was a bit of concern that his side of the line would crash. But this is the moment that Frank Clark has been waiting for, his first start to show his true worth.
It has been noted before that Clark is similarly trained to play like Bennett, being able to line up in every spot in the trenches. But this is the first time he’s had as expanded of a role as Bennett. Based off this performance, there shouldn’t be any concern of an extended absence from Bennett undergoing surgery this week.
Clark finished the day with one of the Seahawks’ only sacks and also tacked on one of only two QB hits (the other coming from Bobby Wagner, who had another career performance this week) and a career-best six tackles. Most of this came against Armstead, but he was also used in a three-technique to shoot the B-gap — perfect for the Seahawks’ hybrid defense being able to rush the edge but also clog interior lanes.
If Clark wasn’t lined up across from Armstead, it was typically Cassius Marsh or Malliciah Goodman in his place. On another note, it was also good to see Marsh able to occupy interior roles when Clark was pushed to the edge. One play in particular highlights how well the pass rush worked under this alternating system.
On a Saints 3rd-and-9 inside the red zone holding a two-point lead, Seattle sent a four-man rush with Clark wrapping around the end and Marsh slanting down on Jahri Evans inside. In the end, both ran past Drew Brees in the pocket but were the bull rushers that allowed Cliff Avril to come up with the sack. Instead of the Saints capping off the game with a touchdown, the drive ended in a field goal with two minutes remaining for the offense.
While it ended all the same in a Seahawks loss, that wasn’t completely on the defense. After all, the defense scored seven of the Seahawks’ 20 points, making the offense the culprit. And if Jermaine Kearse would have caught Russell Wilson’s last pass half a foot sooner, it would have been a Seahawks win.
Regardless of the loss, it was a clear individual victory for Clark. Not only did he walk away with a sack to bring his season total to 5.5 in six games, but he also proved he can be an every-down player like Bennett has been. Before Sunday, the most snaps Clark ran was 55 out of 90 plays during the overtime matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Saints ran 72 plays Sunday, and unofficially, Clark was on hand for at least 80 percent of those snaps. Though with that extra playing time over the past couple of games, he has also committed two penalties. It will take another week to constitute a habit, but the concern in drafting Clark last year was that he would be too undisciplined.
But as long as he keeps up the positive plays, one negative every 50 plays shouldn’t be too much of an issue.