Frank Clark Returns As The Seahawks Take On The Browns

There’s no discounting the loss of Uchenna Nwosu for this Seahawks defense. He was unquestionably our best defensive player last year, he earned a relatively big-money contract extension this past offseason, and even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping this season, the eye-test and the ancillary numbers point to Nwosu being our best outside linebacker/pass rusher. While it’s wonderful that Boye Mafe has taken the next step to be a super-productive second banana, after the loss of Nwosu, the drop-off is pretty considerable.

You may be saying to me, “Don’t forget about Darrell Taylor!” But I think it’s clear at this point that he’s pretty one-dimensional. There are a lot of reasons why the Seahawks have so drastically improved in their run defense – Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Devon Witherspoon, no more Cody Barton – but I think a big key is the reduced role Taylor plays on rushing downs. He’s a solid-to-good pass rusher in obvious passing situations, but other than that, I don’t really trust him as an all-around outside linebacker. That doesn’t mean Taylor doesn’t have value, or isn’t important to this team’s success. But, I take a less-is-more approach with him.

And, as for Derick Hall, I think there’s a lot of promise there, but he reminds me a bit of Boye Mafe as a rookie last year. Maybe a bigger, beefier version, but someone who probably is a year or two away, if he’s going to hit at all.

Seahawks fans have been focused on the impending trade deadline on October 31st for good reason. While the defense has been extraordinary – especially compared to expectations – you can always use a little more. With the way we like to rotate guys in and out, you can never have enough weapons at your disposal. Then, when you factor in the inevitable injuries that will crop up – starting with Nwosu last week – it’s all the more imperative to keep reloading on that side of the ball, not just with bodies, but competent ones.

It’s funny that some people automatically dismissed the Frank Clark option. Maybe they had a good reason; I guess we’ll find out. His numbers with Kansas City for those four seasons certainly weren’t explosive. It’s hard to say he justified the contract he was given; when you sign someone to a deal worth over $20 million per season, you expect more than an ordinary defensive end. He averaged just under 6 sacks per (regular) season, though he added 10.5 sacks in 12 post-season games with the Chiefs. Certainly, whenever I watched the Chiefs (which, yeah, a lot of those games were probably in the playoffs), it seemed like they were getting their money’s worth. But, they clearly felt he was expendable when they cut him this past offseason.

And, also clearly, he didn’t mesh with what the Broncos were trying to do. He signed with them for 2023, at a little under $5.5 million, and got cut after playing in only 2 games. They even went so far as to make him a healthy scratch and put him on the trade block – in addition to reworking his deal to lower the cap hit – but found no takers. Then, he just sat there as a free agent for a couple/few weeks, until the Seahawks came calling.

Now, of course, there are a lot of caveats to all of this. For starters, the Chiefs are – as most teams – up against the salary cap. They have a lot of stars who they’re paying truckloads of money, and they just can’t afford to keep everyone. Maybe they felt he was slipping; maybe they would’ve welcomed him back at the veteran minimum. Clark chose to get what he could with the Broncos; that’s fine. Once the Chiefs gave a little cookie to Chris Jones after his holdout, I’m sure they’re even further pressed against the cap, making in-season moves quite difficult. That could explain why Clark didn’t go back to KC (or, again, maybe they think he’s cooked). But, I don’t know if I’m ready to write Clark off simply because the Broncos cut him. That team is in shambles for a second straight season; it sure looks like they’re getting ready to clean house this upcoming offseason. If they’re indeed looking to covertly tank, getting rid of Clark is an easy way to ensure you’re not getting unwanted production on that side of the ball. Or, you know, maybe that makes two teams who believe Clark isn’t the player he once was.

Then, there’s the obvious argument that Clark and Nwosu really don’t play the same position. Clark is 6’3, 272 pounds; Nwosu is 6’2, 251 pounds. Clark is much closer in body type to Mario Edwards than he is to Nwosu or Mafe. Not for nothing, Clark is much closer in age (30) to Edwards (29) than he is to Nwosu (26) or Mafe (24). I love Clark as an edge-setter and a run defender, I still like him as a pass rush threat, but I don’t know if I love the idea of Clark trying to defend a skill position player in space. Maybe that, ultimately, is the reason why a certain segment of the Seahawks-following public dismissed the notion of a Clark return.

But, he’s here now. And I think this could be a perfect fit. What I’m not necessarily buying is that he knows the system. He was last here in 2018; that was Norton’s first season as DC. Maybe defense is defense; maybe this whole 3-4/4-3 thing is muddier than I think it is. But, I wouldn’t say the defense is exactly the same.

What I will say is that as part of a rotation, this could be the marriage we need. Keep Clark in there for rushing downs, then slide Taylor in there for obvious passing downs. Make that a platoon of sorts. Mafe can take over for Nwosu’s percentage of snaps, and we can use Hall to spell him. Also, I love the idea of a front four consisting of Clark, Reed, Jones, and Mafe if we’re in a jam and need to create pressure with a 4-man front. Throw Taylor into that mix on a blitz? *Chef’s Kiss*.

I would say I’m a little more on the positive end of the spectrum on this move. Very low risk, we didn’t give up a draft pick to get him, he’s getting the veteran pro-rated minimum, he’s at least familiar with the coaching staff and the city. He’s still young enough to where – if he plays well – he can keep getting boatloads of money thrown his way. Quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer can play well into their 30’s, so it’s not like he’s a running back or a receiver or something. It’s a high value position, an area of need, and we have an immediate opening. The downside is: maybe he’s finished, he’s nothing more than a body, and he’ll be out of the league in a year or two. That’s what we have to find out. But, he’s not blocking anyone, he shouldn’t command an inordinate percentage of snaps (unless we have more injuries), and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, Nwosu will be back in 2024 anyway.

That brings us to the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. I found it extremely intriguing that Pete Carroll was already talking about him playing this weekend, even though he hadn’t shown up yet. That tells me Clark must be in pretty good shape. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what he has in the tank.

I also can’t wait to watch this game because we’re FINALLY bringing back the throwback jerseys! It’s so stupid that it’s taken this long to get here, but it’ll be so great to see them on the field again. Never has it felt more like me rooting for clothing than it will on Sunday.

This game also features the return of D.K. Metcalf, who had some interesting things to say at his weekly press conference (namely that he wasn’t allowed to talk about injuries). More and more, it’s looking like last week was a suspension, hidden behind the cloud of his nagging pain complaints. Regardless, we’ll need him; I just hope he’s got his head in the game, and this isn’t the beginning of an irreparable rift with the team.

I am NOT super confident about this one. The Browns’ defense is one of the true elites in the league this year. Considering we’re coming off back-to-back sub-par outings by our offense, the last thing I wanted to see is Myles Garrett making mincemeat of our O-Line. Injuries are still killing us up front – with Bradford looking to be out, possibly being replaced by Jason Peters, who is more of a tackle than a guard – and we’d be crazy if we don’t chip him with a tight end or a running back on every play.

Then, it came out that Kenneth Walker hasn’t practiced for the last two days. He took on the full load of running back production last weekend – with Charbonnet out – and it looks like he’s paying the price. Charbonnet is on track to return this week, but it might be in time to make his first NFL start. I’ve adjusted my fantasy team accordingly, to pick him up as a replacement, just in case.

On the flipside, Deshaun Watson is out this week. He tried to come back last week, was ineffective, and it was clear that he wasn’t ready. So, P.J. Walker gets the start in his place. The Browns are also banged up at running back, and aside from Amari Cooper (who looks diminished in his old age) and Njoku, I don’t know who their pass catchers are.

This game is just screaming Low Scoring Grudgematch. I think it’s going to be extremely close throughout, and if either team goes up by two scores in the second half, I think it’s over. I worry about the Seahawks here, because while I think this is a game we should win – even if it’s in an ugly fashion like last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cards – I could also see our offense completely bottoming out. If it’s 10-0 late in the third quarter, I don’t believe we have the horses to come back against that ferocious pass rush.

What sucks is that we’re two weeks away from a potential Get Right game for our offense. That means we have to figure out some way to put points on the board against elite defenses, because the Browns aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last.

I think this will be, like, a 16-12 Seahawks victory. Ugly as all get-out, but as long as we can hold the Browns to field goals, we should be in good shape.

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