The Seahawks were rather listless in many areas in their 22-20 loss on Friday night to the Broncos in preseason action, but there were definitely a few bright spots. The first, of course, was the highly validating performance by Tyler Lockett, who finished the game with four kickoff returns for 186 yards, including one he took to the house, and one punt return for 18 yards. The other standout in this game, and the guy that gets my "game ball," is another rookie, defensive lineman Frank Clark.
I had been looking forward to seeing how the Seahawks planned to use Clark -- whether it'd be mainly as a weakside end or perhaps more rotational -- and in many ways he played the Michael Bennett role in Seattle's defense. And, he played it well. He lined up at the strongside end (5-technique, just outside the offensive tackle's shoulder) and at the three-technique spot (adjacent to the offensive guard's outside shoulder), and was all over the place in his team-high 51 snaps. Per Pro Football Focus' tracking of Frank Clark's game, he registered 1 QB hit, 2 QB hurries, 6 tackles, 2 assists, and 5 run stops, and while his pass rush potential is intriguing, it was his run-defense game that really stood out.
This is a big deal because it means, in theory, that Clark could be a three-down player, just like Bennett, and feature in both base (run) downs and in the pass rush. Obviously, all the preseason caveats apply here, and it was just one game, but so far, Clark has looked very strong.
Here's a quick breakdown of all of Clark's most impactful plays against the Broncos.
1-10-DEN 25 (7:25) C.Anderson left end to DEN 22 for -3 yards (F.Clark). FUMBLES (F.Clark), recovered by DEN-T.Sambrailo at DEN 20.
This was Clark's first snap in a Seahawks uniform, and he started with a bang. Bruce Irvin is playing the strongside linebacker spot to the outside of Clark's right shoulder, and Clark is lined up, initially, at the four-technique spot, just across from rookie left tackle Ty Sambralio. Right before the snap, the outside of two tight ends for Denver goes into motion to the other side of the formation, and Irvin instructs Clark to shift down the line. He moves inside a step to the three-tech spot (over the guard), but when the ball is snapped, he attacks the tackle's inside shoulder.
It's a run to the strong side, and as Irvin sets the edge, Clark bullies Sambralio, slicing into the backfield to disrupt the play. He forces a fumble, which is unfortunately recovered by the offense.
Just a fierce, powerful play by the rookie.
3-3-SEA 34 (2:32) B.Osweiler pass incomplete deep right [C.Marsh].
Later in the quarter, on a third-and-3 from Seattle's 34 yard line, Clark's speed-to-power bullrush of the left guard forces quarterback Brock Osweiler to move off his spot, thus affecting the timing and spacing of the play. Oswieler throws it away.
This is subtle -- Clark wouldn't get credited with any stat here most likely, but simply moving Osweiler off his spot makes the difference.
Watch Clark run sort of a delayed bull-rush, and instead of trying to go around the guard, he simply pushes him back into the pocket.
3-8-DEN 36 (2:28) (Shotgun) B.Osweiler pass short middle to J.Norwood to SEA 49 for 15 yards (C.Marsh) [F.Clark].
Here's another play where Clark likely wouldn't show up on the stat sheet (potentially a "hurry" here), but it's good to see nonetheless. Denver's in a 3rd-and-8 situation and Seattle rolls out a nickel pass rush package that includes Cash Marsh, Jordan Hill, Frank Clark, and Mike Morgan up front. Morgan's playing the "LEO" spot with his hand in the dirt, and Marsh is standing up on the strongside end like a linebacker, which is interesting in itself.
Linebackers Tyrell Adams and Quayshawn Nealy are "sugaring the A-gaps" here prior to the snap, meaning they're standing up on the line in the A-gaps to the outside shoulders of the center. This is meant to confuse protection calls, because any or all of the six Seahawks on the line could rush.
At the snap, Nealy and Adams drop back into coverage, as does Marsh on the strongside. Seattle brings a corner in on the blitz (Triston Wade), and Frank Clark ends up matched up against the center. He beats him with a nice "club to arm-over swim" move, but it's slightly too late.
Osweiler, to his credit, gets the throw off for 15 yards.
1-10-DEN 26 (14:53) DEN #2 Dysert in at QB. M.Ball left tackle to DEN 25 for -1 yards (F.Clark; T.McGill).
The first Denver offensive series of the 3rd quarter was absolutely dominated by Frank Clark. These are three straight plays on the same series.
1. Clark rushes off the backside 5-tech spot and beats the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme. The right tackle should probably have tried to hold him up a little longer before moving to the 2nd level, because that's a tough reach for the tight end (#86) to make on Clark. Frank blows up the run for a 1-yard loss.
2-11-DEN 25 (14:22) M.Ball left guard to DEN 25 for no gain (F.Clark).
2. Clark lines up at 3-technique and completely annihilates the guard, #63 Ben Garland. He pushes Garland back about five-yards at the snap, blowing the left guard into the run lane and almost into the mesh-point hand-off spot between quarterback and running back. Frank adjusts when the ball is handed off and makes the tackle. In my opinion, this might've been Clark's best play on the day.
3-16-DEN 20 (13:15) Z.Dysert pass short left to M.Ball to DEN 27 for 7 yards (R.Martin; F.Clark) [D.Smith].
3. Clark tries a spin move here from the 3-tech spot, but it doesn't get him anywhere. He does, however, very adroitly pick up that it's a screen play -- he's not rushing himself out of the action or confused about where it's going -- he simply pursues down the line and makes the tackle. This is where Frank's 4.6 speed shows up in catching the running back from behind.
So, yeah. Clark ruined that Broncos drive.
4-1-SEA 36 (11:49) J.Stewart left guard to SEA 37 for -1 yards (A.Singleton; F.Clark).
Clark continued to play heavy snaps for the Seahawks and one thing that I really wanted to see is that he'd retain his intensity throughout. Well, he did, well into the fourth quarter. This play, on a 4th-and-1 from the Seahawks' 37, was big. Clark again knifed through from the backside of the play to chase down a run. This is something that Michael Bennett does pretty frequently, so it's pretty fun to see.
3-16-DEN 46 (2:35) T.Siemian scrambles up the middle to DEN 47 for 1 yard (F.Clark).
Late in the game, as I mentioned, Clark remained active and intense. Here, when his rush doesn't get him anywhere, he tracks the quarterback and brings him down when Siemian tries to break the pocket up the middle. This is technically not a sack because Siemian gains a yard here, but it's a sack for all intents and purposes on a 3rd and 16.
Unfortunately, Douglas McNeil got caught for a pretty ticky-tack illegal hands to the face penalty on this play, so the Broncos' retained the ball with an automatic first down. After a two-yard run by Juwan Johnson, the Broncos set up a 2nd-and-8.
2-8-SEA 46 (2:00) J.Thompson right guard to SEA 45 for 1 yard (F.Clark).
Clark takes a little bit of a chance here in assuming no bootleg keeper (which the Seahawks love to do with Russell Wilson), but his gamble pays off. It'd be interesting to hear from the coaching staff if he was supposed to keep contain on the backside or pursue down the line, but either way, he makes a great play here.
On to 3rd down.
3-7-SEA 45 (1:15) J.Thompson right guard to SEA 46 for -1 yards (F.Clark; C.Marsh).
To put a feather in his cap for the day, Clark again knifes through the line to blow up a run in the backfield. In this game, Clark really did remind me of Michael Bennett in many ways.
So there you have it. As I stated above, all the preseason and "going against backups" caveats apply, and for good reason. However, you have to love what you saw out of Clark, and I'll be really watching to see if he can match the intensity and focus play-to-play (and late into the game) that he had in his first game.