Chiefs’ defender Frank Clark on 49ers game
The way Frank Clark made like a one-man swarm to get in quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ grill three times last year in Seattle may have been reason enough for the Chiefs to acquire him from the Seahawks … to assure one fewer hazard lurking out there for the man who already has changed everything for the franchise.
“I’m just glad he’s on my team,” Mahomes said with a laugh Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium after the Chiefs’ 27-17 loss to the 49ers in a preseason rehearsal.
But the real reason they traded a first- and second-round draft pick for the right to sign Clark to a five-year, $105.5 million contract comes down to this:
For all the grand visions that Mahomes inspired in stoking the Chiefs as close to a Super Bowl berth as they’d been since their last appearance in 1970, their own defense emerged as their greatest nemesis.
And they ultimately viewed Clark, along with free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu, as the sort of force who could help transform the farce that held the Chiefs back a year ago.
While we can’t stress enough that these preseason games reveal next to nothing, especially considering that the projected starting defense has been on the field together for two plays in three games with Mathieu held out Saturday as an apparent precaution with his shoulder, Clark offered a compelling glimpse of the difference he can make on a defensive line already featuring emerging star Chris Jones.
Between his pursuit through the backfield for a tackle and his sack of Jimmy Garoppolo during his few series in the game, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Clark flashed the speed and power that make him every bit the elite, game-changing player Chiefs’ general manager Brett Veach touted him as.
The sack, though, also reflected his smarts and maturity.
When Clark last week was asked about how much football he watches this time of year, he revealed that advantage to go with his physical attributes and desire and infectious passion for the game that teammates have been lauding.
“I can’t stress how important it is to be watching film right now and then going back into your notes and studying,” he said. “One thing I feel like a lot of guys don’t do is save notes, you know? You’ve got to understand you’re going to play these same teams and these same people throughout your years in the league.
“So when you get to year four, year five, year six … imagine how many notes you’ve got from playing 16 games or 21 games or 20 games (in a season) … You’ve got notes on everybody. Now you can bring these notes together.”
The 49ers were a case in point after he’d played them twice a season in his first four years in the NFL.
“You don’t think I’ve got notes on them? You don’t think I’ve got notes on Joe Staley?” he said with a grin. “I know exactly what to do against them; I know exactly how to beat their offensive linemen.”
Lest that sound like bluster, hey, it ain’t bragging if you can do it, as one version of the saying goes.
So it was that Clark, in fact, maneuvered around Staley for the sack. While calling Staley a great competitor and an “even greater person,” Clark on Saturday said he knew he would be “kind of aggressive on the inside fake” and took advantage of that.
Funny thing is Clark says his repertoire has been as vanilla as any other elements of the game this time of year. He didn’t really show anything Saturday, he said, or over the entire preseason that is effectively over for him with starters typically destined to sit in the fourth and final one.
“I’m going to bring out my arsenal now,” he said.
Part of what makes him a dilemma for any offense, as Mahomes remembers well.
“In Seattle, he had such a wide variety of moves,” he said.
Like Mahomes, count Chiefs’ right tackle Mitchell Schwartz among those glad he’s friend not foe now.
“He’s physical, he’s fast, he’s kind of a complete player,” he said, adding that his athleticism and aggressiveness means “you’ve got to be prepared for everything.”
In a new scheme under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo with an overhaul in personnel, it’s still hard to know how this defense is going to perform when it counts. In his own case, Clark after the game was conscious of a long run that “was on me” and thinking about not getting off the field on third downs and all the work ahead.
But he absolutely comes as advertised, and he’s going to at least give the Chiefs a chance to make good on the reason they got him.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said. “And we all know that long haul is somewhere in Miami” where the 2020 Super Bowl will be.