We must admit that as fans we sometimes get ahead of ourselves.
All it took was one or two analysts and scouting reports mentioning that the offensive tackle out of Charlotte could move inside and play guard at the NFL level. Then media professionals and fans took that information and ran wild with it on the internet before ever seeing Clark play a single snap on the interior.
I’ve never done this with Clark specifically, but I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this with a different Jets prospect at some point and time. It’s understandable and I’m not trying to pick a fight with those that had this opinion.
The Jets were hurting for a legitimate guard and fans were caught dreaming that the fourth-round pick would be the answer to their prayers. Then before we knew it, a global pandemic and injuries derailed Clark’s rookie campaign virtually redshirting him, and now a total change in the scheme could work against him in year two.
We are always hopeful as fans and that’s okay, but it’s unlikely Clark starts at guard anytime soon. In fact, he may be hard-pressed to make the roster in 2021.
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Clark Does Not Fit Outside-Zone System
In Adam Gase’s system, a transition to guard was actually more feasible for Clark. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein described him as a mauler that has a “filthy demeanor as [a] block finisher in [the] run game.”
He also described him as a player with lagging feet and “below-average quickness laterally and on pulls.”
Joe Marino of The Draft Network seconded that Clark’s “range and lateral mobility [as a run blocker] are modest.” He also noted that his “pass sets can be too tall,” which would be a major problem on the interior.
This outside-zone scheme calls for lateral movement and zone blocking from its linemen above all else. Beat reporter Connor Hughes wrote that the new system seemed to be helping right guard Greg Van Roten and center Connor McGovern during the spring, but it’s not for everyone.
When posed the question during a press conference on June 16, offensive line coach John Benton explained why this style of blocking was “O-line friendly” in terms of pass protection but countered that he wasn’t “sure that’s completely true” for the run game.
“We force the offensive lineman to put themselves on the edge and really attack the defense,” Benton clarified, hinting that this blocking scheme isn’t easy to master.
Clark is a career offensive tackle known for his pass protection and power blocking. It’s not fair of us to just insert him at guard and expect everything to go as planned.
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Jets O-Line Got Real Crowded, Real Fast
I would love to see Clark win a job as a backup offensive tackle, which is his natural position, but even that won’t come easy on this current Jets depth chart.
Here’s another look at the offensive line at this moment, not including Clark:
Left tackle: Mekhi Becton, George Fant (swing), Conor McDermott
Left guard: Alijah Vera-Tucker, Alex Lewis
Center: McGovern, Jimmy Murray, Corey Levin
Right guard: Van Roten, Dan Feeney (center versatility), Tristen Hoge
Right tackle: Morgan Moses, Chuma Edoga, Grant Hermanns, Teton Saltes
Let’s assume that developmental undrafted prospects Hermanns and Saltes start on the practice squad and that at most, 11 linemen make the Week 1 roster.
Fant is a lock at this point, along with the five starters assuming no injuries occur. That leaves four or five spots for Clark, Lewis, Edoga, McDermott, Feeney, Hoge, Murray and Levin. Realistically, half of these players will either be cut or forced onto the practice squad.
Clark must figure out his role quickly, otherwise, he’ll become one of those casualties.
Clark Has Desirable Traits
Unless Douglas blocks another team from claiming Clark, it may be hard to sneak him onto the practice squad again. So many NFL franchises are thin at offensive tackle and the former Charlotte team captain has many desirable traits.
Clark’s career as a Jet may be unraveling but he can still control his own destiny with an encouraging training camp.
Although I do feel he’s outmatched at guard in this new scheme, he may be able to beat out Edoga and McDermott for the fourth tackle job.