The snap arrived in Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson’s lap, and after faking a handoff, he immediately rolled to his right. Toward his sideline. Toward his tight end operating a drag route across the field.
Or more purposefully, on this first snap of the game, Jackson rolled away from Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark. Away from the highest probably of a pass rush. And yet on the opposite end of the line of scrimmage, nowhere near the play, two offensive linemen double-teamed Clark anyway.
“We knew that was going to happen,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “We’re always looking for ways to put him in different spots so we can avoid that, but they’re chipping him; they’re doubling him. When you’re that kind of football player, people are going to do that. (He’s) just gotta get used to it.”
After acquiring Clark in an offseason trade with Seattle, Kansas City supplied him a contract north of $100 million. He’s not exactly an under-the-radar commodity.
His first three weeks in a Chiefs uniform have encompassed varying levels of frustration, save two standout plays. He did have the fourth-quarter interception in Jacksonville on a pass that pin-balled into his arms, and he notched his first sack of the year on Sunday when he took down Jackson on a third-down play.
On paper, there hasn’t been a whole lot else. Four solo tackles. Just the one hit on a quarterback.
That’s on paper.
“For as much as he’s doubled, he keeps fighting through it. I think that’s where I look at it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I’m not into all of the stats stuff and how many sacks he gets. Being around the quarterback and then finally having an opportunity to tackle him, that’s a good thing.
“He got a lot of attention. Are you going to keep battling or concede to that? Somewhere you’re going to have a single — what are you going to do with it? You saw what he did. ... Sometimes guys get defeated on that, and they get more frustrated. But I didn’t see that.”
Is it that simple? Can he attribute the production from the first three weeks to the attention he’s receiving from offensive linemen?
At least in part, yes.
Clark was on the field for 62 total snaps, 35 of which included Jackson dropping back in the pocket with the intention of passing the football. That’s 35 chances to do what he does best.
He responded with one sack, though he hurried Jackson’s pass twice more.
That came against a heavy dose of attention from Baltimore’s offensive line. Of the 35 drop-backs, offensive linemen double-teamed Clark seven times. A running back or tight end chipped him on five more plays before releasing into their respective routes. That’s a total of 12 plays in which he needed to beat two defenders instead of just one to get to the quarterback.
Clark was utilized as part of three presumed stunts in which he dipped inside, hoping to open a lane for a teammate.
That leaves 20 one-on-one matchups. On four of those, Jackson moved the pocket in the opposite direction, sometimes which Clark immediately spotted and dropped into coverage.
“It gets frustrating at times, but I’ve been there, done that,” Clark said. “I’ve been doing it for five years now, competing at the highest level I can. I know all the success and and stuff is going to come.”
Might it come this week?
While Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked only three times in three games, he was sacked an average of 43 times per season for the previous five years. He’s not particularly mobile. He’s willing to stand in the pocket an extra second or two.
For Clark, that represents opportunity.
Well, depending on the attention he receives.
“It’s nothing new with sacks, but I understand that they come in bunches,” Clark said. “They come over time. You just have to stay consistent in your action and what you’re doing. Right now, I’m more focused on winning, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing. I feel like we’re playing good team ball.”