Kenny Clark is one of several Packers drafted since 2013 after highly productive careers at UCLA:
• Brett Hundley (fifth round, 2015) broke the UCLA record for touchdown passes and total offense after 3 seasons as starter, and he’ll be starting his first game against the Saints on Sunday.
• Datone Jones (first round, 2013) ended with 13.5 sacks as a defensive lineman after 3 seasons as starter, and despite never living up to his first-round billing, he led the team in QB pressures last season after converting to outside linebacker.
• Johnathan Franklin (fourth round, 2013) was selected two rounds after Eddie Lacy with the intention of making him the lightning to Lacy’s thunder. In his senior season, he rushed for 1,734 yards on 269 carries (6.1 yards/carry) and 13 TDs and broke the school’s career rushing record. Unfortunately, he retired after suffering a serious neck injury in his rookie season.

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Kenny Clark, for his part, tallied 75 tackles and six sacks in his breakout junior season—eye-popping numbers for a nose tackle. At age 20, decided to forego his senior season to declare for the 2016 NFL draft, where the Packers chose him in the first round.

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Early on, Mike Daniels took the young Clark under his wing. Both had a wrestling background in high school , which Daniels believes helped prepare them for work in the trenches of football. Both have been described as “undersized” or “short” for their respective positions (Clark being a nose tackle, Mike Daniels being 3-technique) leading up to their respective drafts. But in wrestling, they learned the importance of body control and securing leverage in winning against a larger opponent.

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Being a defensive lineman usually won’t get you in the spotlight. Even the most productive interior pass rushers rarely match the numbers of their edge rushing counterparts. However, when you watch the tape, you can see the disruption they can cause in the backfield. Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels are the kind of defensive tackles who can consistently keep an offense off-balance.

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Clark’s rookie season wasn’t too eventful. However, those who paid close attention could see visible improvement as the season went on.

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Clark’s offseason was off to a strong start as McCarthy praised Clark for crushing it” in the weight room. His position coach Mike Trgovac commented on Clark’s second-year growth and his maturity for a 21 year old. Clark would go on to show these remarks were more than just offseason tropes.

After a promising preseason, Clark had a quietly great first game against the Seahawks. Even though he registered one tackle, he greatly contributed to their stellar run defense.
Clark saw an impressive 47 snaps in week 2 against the Falcons in the absence of Mike Daniels, a notably high number for a 3-4 defensive lineman. He was stout against double teams, even if he didn’t contribute much to the stat sheet again.

Clark showed his success was no fluke against the Bengals in week 3.

Even when he didn’t make the play, he flashed the resilience and endurance he is quickly becoming known for.

This clip from week 4 against the Bears shows Clark bulldozing one lineman en route to decleating a second lineman.

Here’s an example of the importance of securing leverage to win one-on-one matchups.

In week 5 against the Cowboys, Kenny Clark was matched against one of the best centers in the league in Travis Frederick. Clark handled himself well, as shown in one of their skirmishes below.

Kenny Clark was Pro Football Focus’s highest graded interior defender in week 6, being credited with one forced fumble and six run stops.
Here’s one of those plays. He swims past the left guard to meet Jerick McKinnon for no gain.

The most important job of a 3-4 defensive tackle is handling double teams. This is a good example of Clark influencing the play even when swallowed up by a double team.

And he shows remarkable quickness and pursuit for a 315 pound guy.

Combine that quickness with endurance, strength, and grit, and you get a man who cannot be taken out of a play.

If Clark continues his improvement, he and Daniels will soon be in contention for best defensive lineman tandem in the league. And Daniels will tell you he saw it coming ever since Clark was drafted.


 

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