The Bills number one need heading into the 2016 draft is no doubt defensive lineman. Which is not a big problem given this years talent and depth. The intriguing story line to this draft is will there be a massive run of defensive lineman in the first round or will most teams wait til the 2nd and 3rd rounds because of the depth?
If the Bills are going to be playing more 3-4 defense this year, the Bills need to find defensive lineman that are diverse enough to play in the scheme. Some want a nose tackle allowing Rex to put Dareus at a 5 technique position. A position that he played really well in at Alabama, and heck the Bills have to maximize Dareus’ value seeing as how he is a $100 million dollar man.
UCLA’s defensive tackle Kenny Clark has the talent to play ANY of the defensive line positions, in ANY of Rex Ryan’s fronts. He has the quickness to play the 3 technique in a four man front or the 5 technique in a three man front. If Rex wants to play an odd front with Dareus or Kyle Williams at the 5 techs, Kenny Clark can man the zero or shade position. Yes, although he is only 6’3″, 314 pounds he is strong enough to be a nose tackle at the NFL level.
The junior completed his career with 159 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 20.0 tackles for loss in 39 games. His production may not seem like much but he is the type of player whose game fits the NFL brand of football more than college. In 2015 he had 73 tackles which was 4th most in the nation for a defensive tackle, 5.5 sacks, 18 pressures and 43 run disruptions (11th best).
Kenny Clark is was one of the most powerful players in this draft. He benched pressed 225 pounds 29 times, which is nothing special for a defensive tackle. But when you add that raw strength with lower body strength and great pad level you get a very special player.
It is no secret that Clark makes the biggest difference versus the run. He is a consistent player when it comes to his technique. Techniques such as pad level, hand placement and leg drive. Look at how he puts it all together on the next play. Clark is aligned as the shade nose tackle in a 3-4 alignment. Watch closely as the ball is snapped, watch several times to comprehend his skill. He is quickly out of his stance, low and in a good posture to drive with his legs. But then add in the hands. He is the first to engage, the hands are shot out of a cannon and immediately are inside and in control. Look at the offensive lineman’s hands, outside of Clark’s shoulders. That is how you consistently win battles within a war.
He’s not just physically gifted he also has a very high football IQ. Clark is able to diagnose run schemes quickly. That diagnosis then allows him to execute his assignment. Cal tries running a zone run to Clark’s left. Clark is aligned in what appears to be a shade on the center. On the snap the center attempts to reach block the 4 technique defensive tackle but uses his left hand to help the backside guard secure Clark. Clark reads the play, slides laterally and forces the center and guard to block him. That occupies two lineman, therefore leaving the linebacker free to roam.
Clark has short arms so he must rely on his IQ to out maneuver opponents. On this play he is aligned in the A gap. Arizona tries using angles to out flank Clark. But he is too smart, he is able to see the center pull. As the guard blocks down he keeps very good pad level, shoulders square and shuffles play-side. The guard did a fine job of getting his hands inside but Clark still has the strength in his hands to disengage. Watch closely he executes a push then pull move. He pulls with his right hand and that is what sends the lineman off balance. He then finishes the play by making the tackle.
He reminds me of the former Sooner that played for Rex Ryan in Baltimore, Kelly Gregg. He was a nose tackle that measured in at about 6 feet, 320 pounds. He also used his leverage to win battles. Gregg is the nose tackle here.
Clark causes another run disruption on this play. He explodes out of his stance, punches with his 10 1/2 inch hands and puts the center on skates. The linebacker doesn’t fill on time to stop the back from getting the first down. He is very disruptive in the run game.
One of the reasons that linebacker Preston Brown struggled last season was because he often had to fight through blockers. He is more of a down hill linebacker that could probably average 7-10 tackles a game if free to roam. If the Bills rolled out Clark, Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes in front of Preston and Zach Brown, those backers could eat. Dareus and Clark would command so much attention that the linebackers would certainly be the play-makers again!
Cal tries running inside zone again, but Clark wasn’t having it. He again easily takes on the double team. But look at how powerful he is, he doesn’t give any ground to the double team. Most importantly when that back is entering the hole, the left guard wants to move onto the second level. Clark gives him a strong jolt, knocking him back and allowing the linebacker to clean up.
He is just a bull in a china shop, he plays with tenacity and uses his hands so well.
Clark isn’t going to be a major pass rusher in the NFL. He does have a quick first step but he doesn’t possess the the kind of ability that will lead to sacks in the NFL. His pressures will be due to his motor and brute strength. In this game versus Arizona he finished with 8 tackles, 3 pressures, 3 run disruptions and half a sack.
Clark is quick off the snap and uses his bull rush to push the center into the face of the quarterback. If offenses choose to block him with just one player, he will consistently get pressure up the middle. This is obviously important for the Bills in a division with Tom Brady. The Patriots interior offensive lineman had trouble last season and adding Clark to free up Dareus could cause chaos.
One of the most underrated skills for a defensive lineman are their hands. Whether Clark is defending the run or pass, he uses his hands extremely well. Watch how as he rushes, he swats the guards hand down, then just plows through the center to sack Jared Goff.
Clark would instantly upgrade the Bills defensive line if drafted. He plays with violence but it isn’t reckless. He is able to be technically sound but intelligent at the same time. Look at how he engages the guard, rips through but is able to read the running back’s next move. He senses screen and blows it up!
Many Bills fans were clamoring for Buffalo to draft nose tackle Andrew Billings, but Clark is a much better player in my opinion. Clark offers many of the same skills as Billings but he plays more violently. In my opinion Billings is more of a wide bodied nose tackle, sure he can occupy players with his strength but he doesn’t explode into lineman or disrupt plays as good as Clark.
The Bills should definitely consider drafting Clark if he is available in the second round. Clark is a scheme versatile player that will offer the Bills flexibility. Flexibility to move Kyle and Marcel anywhere along the defensive line, allowing them to do what they do best; penetrate. Clark occupying two lineman will create opportunities for others. Similar to what Rex did in Baltimore with Gregg, use Clark at nose tackle and put Dareus at the 5 tech, it would wreak havoc on offenses. Secondly, by adding a strong, smart, technically sound player to this two gap scheme it will make the jobs of the Bills’ inside linebackers that much easier. The lineman will have trouble blocking the Bills’ defensive lineman, freeing up the backers to make plays. As we all know the linebackers are the play-makers in this style of defense. Doug Whaley and Rex need to find players that can bring this defense back to the level that is expected of it. Kenny Clark would be one piece to the puzzle that would instantly upgrade this defensive unit.
Here’s a little throwback:
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