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Packers DL Kenny Clark ‘proud’ of play in 2023, sets new career-high in sacks

Green Bay Packers interior defensive lineman Kenny Clark put together one of his most disruptive years as a pass rusher in 2023.

“My job is to be disruptive,” said Clark this week. “To make plays and allow other guys to make plays around me. That’s just my key. I just try to be as disruptive as possible, and when it’s my opportunity to make that play, I’ve got to make it.”

Clark finished the season with 66 pressures, just three shy of his career-high which he set in 2019. Clark did, however, set a career-high with 10 sacks, according to PFF, one more than his previous high, which also came in 2019. PFF counts half-sacks as full sacks.

In terms of traditional statistics, Clark set new career highs in sacks (7.5) and quarterback hits (16).

Among all interior defensive linemen, Clark’s 66 pressures were the sixth-most in football, and his 10 sacks were tied for the fifth-most. He would also rank 11th in PFF’s pass rush productivity metric.

“As far as myself? It’s definitely right at the top,” said Clark on Monday when asked how he would rank his performance this season. “Just proud about how I played, how I led this team and just looking forward into the future, knowing that we’ve got something good, knowing that I’ve got something to build up off of. Excited about what we could do.”

If you go back and watch Clark’s performance against San Francisco in the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, that level of play really sums up what we saw from Clark this season.

In both the run and pass games, he was generating consistent push up the middle, and from an effort standpoint, he was all over the field, whether it be in Brock Purdy’s lap or making tackles along the boundary.

One fairly significant change for Clark this season was where he was aligned. Clark played just 49 snaps aligned in the A-gap, nearly 100 fewer than in 2022, his previous season low. Instead, he played a career-high 102 snaps lined up as the five-tech. Last season, Clark played just 10 snaps there.

“I’m proud about how I played,” added Clark, “moving around this year and playing a lot of the five, adjusting to that. I think I’ve really been consistent all year and had my career high in sacks and a lot of things this year.”

With TJ Slaton taking on a starting role, he was able to handle more of the workload inside, freeing up Clark to move away from the interior. Lined up outside creates more one-on-one opportunities for Clark to exploit.

The Packers’ pass rush, as a whole, really began to pick up late in the season. This charge started in the middle with Clark and his play but also showed the progress that this relatively young position group had made over the course of the season.

Along with Clark’s disruptive play on the field, he was a leader to the inexperienced interior defensive line room off of it. An example of how to prepare and the play style that’s needed to be successful.

“Kenny Clark is one of our leaders,” said Matt LaFleur. “No question about it. Another guy that continues to battle. He certainly leads that defensive line room. He’s a big leader not only on the defense but for this football team. Not always the most outspoken, but he certainly does it with his play and his actions and how he prepares on a weekly basis. We are fortunate to have a guy like that in our locker room.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire