Many player matchups on the field are the focal point for fans, commentators and even coaches. Furthermore, games are won in the trenches, more often than not. When the Kansas City Chiefs kick off the season against the Houston Texans, that dirty work in the trenches will be prominent. The matchup that sticks out the most in that regard involves Kansas City’s Frank Clark and Houston’s Laremy Tunsil. As we will talk about, Clark’s late season push from last year, could be just the beginning for his ascent. Meanwhile, Tunsil may be the most crucial part of the Texans success, that nobody talks about. Let’s dive in.
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Despite a slow start in 2019, mostly due to injuries, Frank Clark brought the exact attitude the Chiefs defense needed in last year’s offseason reclamation. His fire and desire to win came to light in multiple areas. The leadership, effort and ability to stop the run, not just rush the passer, led KC to new heights. More importantly, Clark helped to push other teammates to find their potential.
Guys like Tanoh Kpassagnon, Daniel Sorensen and others broke out of their proverbial shell. And it came at the most important point in the season. It just so happened, the Chief defense started to find their groove at the same time. Clark was not afraid to talk the talk, either.
When his team was trailing in the playoffs, Frank Clark began to chirp more, knowing they could pull through. Here is what he said after winning Super Bowl LIV: “All of them were going home. Every team we played in the playoffs was going home. In my mind, you aren’t better than us. They’re going to call me cocky. They’ll call me arrogant. Why not? It’s about time I let it go.”
(In the Super Bowl) “They were all celebrating. I told them you’re going home, just like the rest of them.”
Kansas City’s “closer” only got stronger when the talk started to spill over. Clark consistently placed pressure on opponents. As a result, he came up clutch when everyone else counted him out.
Clark’s pass rush skill set as a speed rusher, seems to be a lesser known quality. The explosiveness he displays off the snap, along with agility, arm length and heavy hands fits defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo‘s tendency at defensive end. Clark brings an even more impressive form of power to the table. When that combines with his speed, offensive tackles are doomed.
It is also important to note how technically sound this Chiefs pass rusher is. Doing this consistently is not always easy or present. However, Clark understands how to break down opposing offensive tackles with his blend of pass rush counters and never say die attitude.
Lastly, Frank Clark could be just reaching the tipping point with his playoff play from last year. The mental and physical part of his game are growing, hand in hand. Moreover, Clark displays dominance and consistency in matchups with all situations. Having that versatility in all areas of the game, will be of the upmost importance in getting to Laremy Tunsil and Deshaun Watson to slow down the Houston offense.
The Chosen One
Laremy Tunsil received lofty expectations as a first round pick with the Miami Dolphins. While his career start was seen as deliberate, the Ole Miss product found his groove in 2018. Ultimately, that would be Tunsil’s final campaign in a Dolphins uniform. The trade to Houston came with many additional factors. But most importantly for the offensive lineman, the Texans were putting all of their trust in him to protect their star quarterback.
As a result, he played with added confidence and performed with admirable statistics. Tunsil unfortunately committed the most penalties in the league (18), with 66 percent of those being false starts. On the other hand, his three sacks allowed were astronomically better than prior Houston blockers. Finally, Tunsil received the seventh best pass blocking win rate of any left tackle, according to ESPN.
Does this player still have his share of weak moments on the field? Absolutely. However, Houston has seemed to stumble upon finding their franchise blindside protector at 25 years old. In a span of extremely questionable trades and roster moves from the last few years, the Texans look to be major winners after acquiring Laremy Tunsil.
Earlier this offseason, the team quickly granted him a mega contract extension of 3 years, $66 million. The deal made him the NFL’s highest paid offensive lineman. In addition, Tunsil has gained almost as much appreciation as any Texans player from head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien.
Tim Kelly, Houston’s offensive coordinator, talked about Tunsil’s ability on the football field early this offseason. The key being, Laremy is “everything you’re looking for in a left tackle.”
“He’s really athletic, he’s got great feet, he’s a physical player. Mostly, he’s got good length.”
In short, the mix Tunsil provides with his athleticism and power in the run/pass blocking skills are rare. With his lateral agility and speed, he can reach the second level fairly easily in zone rushing concepts.
Moreover, Tunsil has shown a more accentuated improvement as a pass blocker. His anchor and body control leads to a well balanced, strong style. There is definitely a level of nastiness there. Overall, Tunsil’s refinement with his hands, feet and vision have led to astounding results.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.