Whenever I see a player fail to do his job on the football field, I think of this Herman Boone quote:
We will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass, you run a mile. You miss a blocking assignment, you run a mile. You fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts and then you will run a mile. Perfection. Let's go to work.
My internet research* doesn’t give me any evidence that the real Coach Boone said this quote, but Denzel Washington did when he portrayed him in Remember the Titans.
(*Disclaimer: it did send me down an entirely different rabbit hole that I recommend checking out here.)
It’s an all-time favorite movie quote of mine.
Because as fans, we sometimes expect close to perfect execution from all football players at all times. The mistakes can be glaring and, for example, when a player busts a coverage, I picture Denzel shoving a football in their gut and making them run the equivalent of a mile around the football field.
(Side bar— how many miles did Alan Bosley run in that movie? Cape up for Ryan Gosling all you want, but he was a defensive liability.)
At this point in the season, Kenny Clark has played like he’s not about to run any miles for Coach Boone.
He’s been an effective run stopper and anchored a defensive line that was missing a key component in Mike Daniels for a couple games.
Against Minnesota on Sunday, Clark did his best representation of the “lowest man winning” when he was buried by two Viking offensive lineman, but still managed to force a turnover:
Clark double teamed, on the ground, still makes a big play pic.twitter.com/MTX3ZkWV5V— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 16, 2017
As impressive as this was, it’s not the only time in the game when Clark was able to make a double team look like they were about to run a mile themselves.
On this play, Clark moves with such great lateral quickness that the center on the double team can’t assist in delaying Clark’s tackle for loss. It looks a little unreal:
Kenny Clark can anchor down that double team, but also dance/swim around it.. Becoming very difficult to block... pic.twitter.com/jEmXQqWkqM— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 17, 2017
Along with Kenny Clark, you can see the development of Blake Martinez behind him as both players are making leaps this season. While Kenny and Mike Daniels redirect the running lanes, Martinez is able to clean up on open running lanes to continue his impressive tackling season:
Pro Football Focus had Clark graded (95.1) as the number one interior defender in Week 6, a week that many Packer fans would like to soon forget. Clark even finished a spot ahead of Aaron Donald in terms of grading. Donald makes a living in the opponents backfields by getting off the snap quicker than any other interior defender.
That just happens to be what Kenny has been doing all season:
Through pure speed and strength, Clark is able to take command of the interior trenches and re-establish the line of scrimmage which is not something that you want to see as a tailback or quarterback.
A lot of what the second-year UCLA product does won’t show up on the stat sheet, but the game tape tells an entirely different story. In the following weeks, watch Clark at the line of scrimmage and the small battles he’s winning. Watch the explosion, watch the running backs think twice about where their running lane is, and watch the hustle to get to the ball.
The season may feel lost without Aaron Rodgers, but Clark’s play is a silver lining going forward. Nothing is ever perfect, but Clark is working to be perfect in every aspect of the game.