Every NFL team has its underrated players — those force multipliers that make things go on offense or defense but never seem to get the credit they deserve. For the Packers over the last three seasons, that player has been defensive tackle Kenny Clark, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, who really became a major part of that defense in his second season.
Now, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports, Clark is making financial history at his position.
More info on the Kenny Clark deal:
🏈Clark will make $37M in the first two years of the deal.
🏈There’s no deferral on the bonus.
🏈And he’s now tied to Green Bay for the next five seasons. https://t.co/JLTU0YEfPP
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 15, 2020
The bump is well-deserved. Clark has totaled 16.5 regular-season sacks and one quarterback takedown in the postseason through his career, but as is especially true of interior defensive linemen, sacks don’t tell the whole story.
Last season, per Pro Football Focus, only Aaron Donald and Calais Campbell had more total pressures among players listed as interior defensive linemen than Clark with 69. As Campbell played end a lot of the time, and Donald is from another planet from a talent perspective, that puts Clark in rarefied air. Clark also had more stops than any other interior defensive lineman with 45. As effective as the pass-rushing tandem of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith was last season, that duo would not have been able to wreak as much havoc without Clark beating people up from center to guard.
Still, Clark remains underrated by some. He somehow didn’t make the NFL Network’s list of the league’s top 100 players in 2020, though he ranked 34th in Touchdown Wire’s list of the NFL’s top 101. Here’s what our Mark Schofield had to say about Clark’s play on the field:
I remember the exact moment I first heard the name Kenny Clark. It was back in 2015, and I was writing a preview of a September matchup between Arizona and UCLA during the halcyon days of Inside the Pylon. While studying the Bruins’ defense, I came across this play from a nose tackle, highlighted by the white box pre-snap:
Since that moment, I’ve been a fan.
Clark has lived up to the expectations I, and the Green Bay Packers, had for him when the Packers drafted him in the first round of the 2016 draft. 2019 might have been his best season yet, as he saw a career-high 971 snaps and made the most of them. Clark tallied career-high numbers in pressures (69), sacks (9), hurries (58), tackles (46) and stops (45).
It is rare to see sideline-to-sideline ability from an interior defensive lineman, but Clark brings that to the table, along with great awareness for the position. But you also have to take note of his strength, power and leverage. Watch what he does here on this running play from the Carolina Panthers. Off the snap he drives his left arm into the right shoulder of the center on this zone running play, driving the center back. Once he gets control of the blocker his hands are fast enough that he can flare out his left arm to control the ball-carrier, while using his right arm and shoulder to maintain leverage over the center:
With Clark on the inside and the dueling Smiths on the outside, the Packers defense is in solid shape up front heading into 2020.
No doubt about it — Clark will be an integral part of Green Bay’s defense for years to come.