BRADY HENDERSON

Leaner Frank Clark ready for bigger role in second year with Seahawks

Jun 10, 2016, 5:19 PM | Updated: 5:19 pm
Despite plenty of speculation this offseason, Frank Clark said the Seahawks won't play him at lineb...
Despite plenty of speculation this offseason, Frank Clark said the Seahawks won't play him at linebacker. (AP)
(AP)

RENTON – With a leaner frame and a clearer path to playing time, defensive end Frank Clark is ready for a bigger role as he enters his second year with the Seahawks.

It just won’t entail playing any linebacker.

That had been speculated earlier this offseason in light of his weight loss as well as the opening at that position left by Bruce Irvin’s free-agent departure. The Seahawks have said that while Clark is part of their plan to replace Irvin, that will be as a pass rusher as opposed to a strong-side linebacker. Clark set the record straight again Thursday after the Seahawks held their ninth and final Organized Team Activity.

“No, not at all,” Clark said with a laugh when asked if the team plans to use him at linebacker. “Defensive end. I’m a pass rusher. I love rushing that passer, I love being on the edge, having my hand in the dirt. Linebacker didn’t come up one time during the offseason. I always knew what I was coming in to do. I know there were a lot of rumors, the linebacker rumors and things like that. But I wasn’t quoted as saying I was going to play it and neither were my coaches.”

Notes and observations as Seahawks wrap up OTAs

The speculation that Clark could take play some linebacker arose in March when he posted a picture of a scale that read 257 pounds, showing that he had trimmed down from last season’s listed weight of 272. This was during the start of free agency, right as Irvin was signing with Oakland and leaving Seattle with a void at strong-side linebacker.

And when the offseason program began in April, Clark was listed as an outside linebacker on the Seahawks’ online roster before his position was changed back end the next day. A team spokesperson said the initial listing was a clerical error.

And so Clark will remain at defensive end, where he’ll be in line for more playing time now that Irvin won’t be rushing from the right side in nickel situations. Clark played 323 snaps during the regular season, which averages out to 22 a game taking into account the one he missed. For context, Michael Bennett led Seattle’s defensive linemen with 812 snaps, about 51 per game.

More playing time means Clark could be in line for more sacks after recording three as a rookie to go along with 16 tackles and a forced fumble. That followed a preseason in which Clark was at times the most disruptive defender on the field. He didn’t have the same impact when facing stiffer competition and playing less often during the regular season.

Clark hopes the weight he lost will help with his speed and quickness off the edge. He said he feels better physically after shedding 15-20 pounds to get down to 260, which was his playing weight at Michigan. There were times during his rookie season when he felt too heavy and, as a result, sluggish.

“Over the course of the year, while in games, I felt myself getting tired after a couple of plays,” he said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, this is not me.’ I take it back to my junior, senior year in college when I was 260-265, when I could play eight straight plays and feel great. I just took it back there and that’s where I really wanted to be physically.”

Clark, wearing a sleeveless shirt that showed off his noticeably leaner frame, said losing the weight wasn’t difficult. In his words, he just worked “a little bit harder, sweat a little more” and didn’t even have to give up any of his favorite sugary snacks.

“I drink soda – I know I shouldn’t but I drink a lot of soda, I eat a lot of Sour Patch Kids,” he said. “It’s all part of my diet to help me get here and I don’t think it’s going nowhere no time soon.”

The Seahawks at times last season had Clark rush from the inside, something he never did at Michigan. The idea was to line him up against guards that couldn’t match his quickness, but his lighter frame means he would be giving up even more weight when sliding inside. The Seahawks may not need him to do that anymore after drafting Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson. Jordan Hill is also healthy.

“I want to do whatever they want me to do and more,” Clark said. “If me rushing on the inside will get us that sack to help us win the game at the end of the game, I want to be there.”

Whatever the exact plan may be for Clark, the Seahawks expect him to make an impact. Coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason that Seattle thinks Clark will be a “premier pass rusher.”

“Here’s a guy that came back to us in a little bit different makeup,” Carroll said at the start of OTAs. “Stronger, he looks faster than ever, lost a few pounds, came in a little bit leaner than when he had come in a year ago. He feels great. He just feels like he’s physically on it.”

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