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Chris Clemons does the dirty work on Seahawks’ D-line

Now that the end of the 2011 season is rapidly approaching, the subject of the 2012 NFL draft and free-agency is on everyone’s mind.

One player who will be without a contract next year is defensive end Chris Clemons, a guy the Seahawks may want to get signed up early. If he’s allowed to test the open market, there will be 31 teams happy to sign him because of what they’ve all seen on film from him the past two years – even if he is 30 years old.

Clemons has been a big playmaker ever since he arrived in Seattle, but it’s the dirty work he does that makes him such a valuable defender. He had a team-high 11 sacks last year and this year he has eight to go along with 33 tackles, three forced fumbles and three passes defensed.

Most of what Clemons does isn’t quite so obvious. He’s amazingly stout at the point of attack. The way he plays the run belies his physical stature. In person and out of football pads, Clemons looks more like a basketball forward than he does a defensive end. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds, but I’d argue that may be fudging 10 pounds.

How he maintains the edge and controls the line of scrimmage in the running game is because his perfect technique. He seems to always have his feet shoulder width apart, has tremendous hand placement and never gets his hips turned, giving up a side. He also understands that the low man wins and consistently maintains outstanding pad level. He’s the poster boy for defensive technique.

Typically when you hear someone described as having a “high motor” you’re talking about an overachieving player with limited athletic ability that plays above his skill level. Clemons does have that high motor but the physical tools to go along with it.

His downside, besides being 30, is that he has the reputation of not being warm and fuzzy in the media. Personally, I don’t see a reason to be otherwise, but I think we expect more from players than we need to. They’re not politicians, philanthropists or rocket scientists (well, some are!). They’re grunts just as I used to be. What we really need from a player like Clemons is exactly what I described.

When I played with Mark Schlereth (now an ESPN NFL analyst) in Denver, he had a saying that spoke to the world you live in as a player. If there was ever something said about someone being smart or successful or wealthy, he would jokingly respond, “Yeah, but can he split a double-team?”

That’s pretty much all we need from Clem, right?

As for splitting double-teams? Yes he can.