At times last season, Frank Clark felt himself running out of gas after just a couple of consecutive plays. The defensive end didn't feel like himself in those moments, so one of his goals this offseason was to drop a few pounds to get back to his college playing weight, and now a slightly leaner Clark is ready for what he and his team hopes will be a breakout second season in Seattle.
"I felt myself getting tired after a couple of plays," Clark said. "I was like, 'Wow, that's not me.'
"I went down 15, 20 pounds, down to 260 right about now. I'm lean, feeling good, you know? I felt like I needed to drop a little bit of weight. I felt like I played a little too heavy. Basically just wanted to drop weight, get back to those faster days of Frank. More speed, get off the edge a little faster."
A slightly reshaped body is just one reason why Clark is being touted as a potential breakout player in 2016 after a relatively quiet rookie season—and it wasn't that Clark played poorly last year, there just weren't a ton of opportunities in a deep defensive line rotation. For starters, Clark, like any second-year player, has a much better idea now what it takes to play in the NFL than he did a year ago.
"As a rookie, it was all so fast," Clark said. "Everything—the coaches, the direction. I didn't really understand what they were asking of us, you know what I mean? Just coming in, my main goal was just to prove myself. I got caught up so much in trying to prove myself that I kind of lost myself as a player at times. I believe this time around, I understand more. Understand what Coach (Pete) Carroll asks of us, what my position coach asks of us, and my role on this team."
The other reason Clark figures to take on a more prominent role in 2016 is that more pass-rush snaps are available this year following Bruce Irvin's departure in free agency. While Irvin was the starting strongside linebacker in Seattle base defense, he also spent significant time at defensive end in pass-rushing situations with Michael Bennett moving from end to tackle in those packages. And though Clark isn't a candidate to take over the strongside linebacker spot—he made it clear that wasn't in his future during Thursday's press conference—he does have a good chance to take over the pass-rushing part of Irvin's role. Last season, Clark played just shy of a third of Seattle's defensive snaps, both as an interior and edge rusher, earning three sacks in his rookie season. Those numbers could go up significantly if Clark is able to take on Irvin's role while maintaining some of the interior rushing duties he had last season.
"I think any time you have a guy leave and you've got the guy that's, quote, 'next up,' he comes in, I think of course the role changes," Clark said. "It becomes a bigger role. As a rookie coming in, my role was to just follow the lead—follow the lead of the veterans. This time around this year, I'm not the rookie no more. I've got to lead our rookies; I've got to show them the way and I've got to also continue to follow the lead of our other veterans – Mike Bennett and Cliff Avril."
Talking to reporters at the annual league meeting this offseason, Carroll said Clark has a chance to become a "premier rusher" this season, and after seeing Clark in offseason workouts, Carroll remains optimistic about last year's second-round pick.
"He's a guy who came back to us with a little bit different makeup," Carroll said. "He's stronger, he looks faster than ever. He lost a few pounds. He came in a little bit leaner than he came in a year ago. He just feels great, he feels like he's physically on it. We talked today about how much farther down the road he is now in understanding what's expected of him and all of that. He's having a blast playing with these guys."
Photos from the ninth and final set of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that the Seahawks held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Thursday, June 9.