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"Kenny Clark May Be Our Most Improved Second-Year Guy"

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"Kenny Clark May Be Our Most Improved Second-Year Guy"

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy addressed the media after the team's last practice of the offseason on Thursday and singled out second-year defensive lineman Kenny Clark.  His comment was that Clark may be the  most improved of the second-year players on the roster. 

We've heard McCarthy heap praise on numerous players during the offseason before and honestly, what else is he going to say to the media about his team?  It's his job to send a positive message to and motivate his players and most naturally respond well to complimentary speak.

But let's hope the head coach really means what he's saying about Clark.  A first round pick in 2016, Clark came along slowly while putting up modest numbers.  For defensive linemen in a 3-4 scheme, stats aren't abundant.  Clark saw action in all 16 games last season, tallying 21 tackles, two for a loss, two fumble recoveries and two passes defended.  

Let's keep in mind that Clark was only 20 years old for part of last season.  The maturation during the season and adjusting to NFL life has proven to be quite a challenge for many young players.  Clark has quickly picked up on what it takes to improve in the NFL.  Back in May, McCarthy remarked how Clark had been hitting the weight room hard and lauded his preparation for this upcoming season so far.

First round picks have been more on the slow side of "slow and steady" in recent years.  Some aren't even with the team.  Going back to 2012 the Packers selected Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall and Clark with their first round selection.  Perry finally came on in year five and better late than never.  Jones wasn't brought back and is a Minnesota Vikings.  Clinton-Dix just went to his first Pro Bowl in year three.  Randall regressed in 2016 after injuries kept him from playing at full strength and enters year three with question marks.

Of those, none really blossomed in year two for whatever reason.  Clark would become an exception to recent history is he's able to put himself firmly on the Packers defensive map in 2017.  With the loss of Jones and Julius Peppers and a four-game suspension for Guion, Clark's number will be called early and often this year.

He'll get many opportunities and while we've seen players fail to meet their offseason hype in recent years, Clark seems to be on the right path to proving his head coach right.  The Packers also wouldn't mind getting the most out of their young defensive lineman while his contract is very team-friendly.  

Clark's 2017 stat sheet should look different and full of bigger numbers than they were last season.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

Last season watching Clark adjust to the NFL I kept thinking, this dude is only 20 years old, 20!! Not only did he go from college to the pros, he went from Los Angeles to Green Bay. That's a lot for a 20 year old "Kid" to handle.

If Clark could put up numbers like Raji did his 2nd season that would be the definition of "2nd year jump" and it's what I'm hoping for. I agree with some of our fans here where they feel the Packers might depend more on players like Clark, Daniels, Lowry, and even the new kid Adams to get pressure on the QB. With the lack of proven depth at OLB, the Packers might need Clark to perform exactly like Raji did in 2010. The Packers really need their 1st round picks to perform like 1st round picks and they need it sooner than 5 years later. Clark and the rest of this D-Line will be vital in the Packers success this year. First stopping the run, then knocking the crap out of Wilson, Ryan, Bradford, and especially Prescott to name a few. Just get to and through TC healthy!!

jeremyjjbrown's picture

He really doesn't seam like a 21 year old. Must be an old soul.

RCPackerFan's picture

I really like Clark. I liked him coming out of College as well. Actually I predicted the Packers would take Clark last year a few weeks before the draft. I think it was the first time I ever predicted something right with the draft.

As the season wore on Clark just got better and better. You could definitely see his wrestling back

I am really excited to see what Clark does in year 2.

marpag1's picture

I correctly predicted that the Packers would select Datone Jones, and I've regretted that selection ever since.

As for Clark, I actually thought he might be off the board by the time the Packers picked. I thought he looked very good at the end of last year. But I put just about ZERO stock in MM's offseason comments. He's said the same thing for the past several years, and it's turning into a jinx.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

IMO, Clark and Lowry were steals. Clark looks like he should have gone Top 15, and Lowry looks like he belonged in the 2nd Round.

Josh Jones is also looking like a major steal, though admittedly, it's so early with him.

Turophile's picture

For those that remember the 2016 draft, Kenny Clark, Robert Nkemdiche and Vernon Butler were all taken in round one, at picks 27 to 30. It will be interesting to see which of those three turns out the best pick.

stockholder's picture

Clark will. But KC may have gotten the best DL in Chris Jones. #37 pick; Another that was in that group. Billings went later than expected. So TT did well with getting Clark.

PatrickGB's picture

Its been written that Lowry played better than Clark by the end of the season. Clark may have hit the rookie wall. I realize that its hard to judge DL in this defense because that don't get the flashy stats. They looked like JAG's to me. I agree with the article when it states that rookie rarely stand out. Lets hope that MM's anointing of Clark is not a curse like it was when he said the same thing about Adams.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Really? I thought it an extremely common opinion that Clark was really coming on at the end of the season. That is what I saw as well. I thought Lowry looked very encouraging as well.

Guess I just disagree completely with you.

DesertPackFan's picture

Even the coaches pointed out how well Clark played down the stretch last year. It wasn't just common opinion, it was common knowledge.

I have to admit I was wrong about Clark. Didn't like the pick at the time, but he proved me wrong and the professionals (Thompson and scouts) right. Raji's hiatus was still the impetus to drafting Clark, otherwise they would have gone another direction in the draft. It may turn out to be a blessing since Clark now looks like he will be better than Raji (his '10 season notwithstanding).

I liked Butler and Chris Jones better at the time not to mention a couple edge rushers. Jones still might have been the better pick, but we got a quality starter at the least, so no complaints.

chugwater's picture

Your integrity is noted and appreciated.

I'll forever remember Clark's selection and the angst many had for not picking Myles Jack, ILB, who slide out of the top 10.

Jack was touted as an instant playmaker and special talent, but he was very pedestrian his rookie season.

Both Jack and Clark are early in their careers, but I am optimistic we made the right choice.

DesertPackFan's picture

I'll always admit it when I'm proven wrong.

Myles Jack was a terrific talent at LB. His problem and the reason he fell out of Rd 1 (as did Jaylon Smith) was an injury that likely will end his career prematurely and need micro-fracture surgery sooner than later. Jack would have been a top 5-10 pick if not for the injury, same for Jaylon Smith.

I never expected the Packers to use a 1st rd pick on either Jack or Smith. Possibly a late 2nd, but both went top of rd 2.

Packer Fan's picture

It would be great if the Pack got some good second year jumps this year. Not just Clark, but also Spriggs, Fackrell, Martinez, Davis and Murphy. Two of three of them making a big jump in the second years is really needed. Not too many of those in the last few years.

JohnnyLogan's picture

I think there's a very positive feeling about last years draft class as none of them seemed like busts and each one has the potential for a breakout. Clark was really pretty damn good at the end of the year, with Lowry you could see the strength and ability, Fack to me has huge upside as he's fast and smart, and contrary to most I think Davis becomes out #4 receiver. I rewatched his college highlights and his speed and ability to catch the ball are impressive. Just needed a few pounds for the NFL pounding. Loved last year's class and very encouraged. Now if King, Jones, Adams and Biegel can have an impact this will be a young but seasoned team.

chugwater's picture

The thing about Fack with me is...the dude's already 25 years old. He's already peaked physically. Maybe an NFL diet and regimen will help.

I hope he's got the tools to put it together to be an effective edge rusher. I'd be happy for him to prove me wrong.

DesertPackFan's picture

Fackrell can still develop into a quality player. His age won't prevent his development, it just means that the number of years he's at his best will be quite a bit shorter than most players. He didn't have the punishment of most players in college but still once he passes 30 yrs old, his ability will start to diminish. A 2nd contract will take him to 31 yrs old or more, so not much chance for a big 3rd contract.

Tundraboy's picture

There are always late bloomers. Hope that is the case.

Handsback's picture

I will admit that I thought Noah Spence would be a better pick for the Pack. An edge rush guy and possible playmaker. It might turn out Spence is the best player, but no matter...Clark is good and will make that steel curtain popular again.

Tundraboy's picture

The thought of having Clark step up and provide a 2nd force on the line makes me realize just how much we ended up missing Raji. Even though it waned over time Raji was at least a threat. With a healthy Matthew and Perry as well as another of the depth guys making a jump, this D is shaping up nicely. Maybe can even be scary. What would that be like?

stockholder's picture

I think the biggest mistake was putting Raji at End. They should have kept him at NT.

DesertPackFan's picture

Exactly. Moving Raji to DE made no sense IMO. They defense was still very good w/ him at NT and Pickett at DE. It got much worse w/ Raji at DE and Pickett at NT. It was a big mistake to switch them and Raji just wan't the same when he finally got moved back to NT 3 yrs later.

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