Richard Sherman took the Seahawks’ top rookie draft choice to school last night in San Diego.
In the second quarter of Seattle’s 16-15 exhibition-game win at Qualcomm Stadium, Clark, the team’s second-round pick out of Michigan, made the latest in a month’s worth of rushes into the opponent’s backfield. Clark lined up inside where he’s been on obvious passing downs and decisively pushed San Diego center Chris Watt back into quarterback Philip Rivers. As he and teammate Jordan Hill were finishing the sack, Clark brought his hands up under the quarterback’s chin and pushed Rivers’ head toward the turf.
Rivers didn’t appreciate that. He pulled Clark’s right arm back into him to show his dissatisfaction. Chargers left tackle King Dunlap, seeing his prized QB getting into it with a defensive end, angrily pulled Clark away well after the play. That drew a third-man-in foul for unnecessary roughness on Dunlap.
I asked Clark in the visiting locker room last night if he “coaxed” the Chargers into that personal foul with his initial act on Rivers.
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Clark smiled mischievously.
“Man, in this game there are a lot of emotions involved,” he said. “I’m an emotional player, but, you know, there are ways you react and ways you don’t react. You’ve got to be smart in this game.”
That’s where Sherman comes in. The All-Pro cornerback told the rookie after the play basically to knock that stuff off, don’t even get yourself into that situation to begin with, so the team doesn’t get penalized and he doesn’t get fined once the games starting counting Sept. 13 at St. Louis.
“That’s something, you know, Richard, Sherm, was telling me after that whole thing -- even though I didn’t get called for anything -- he was just telling me to avoid situations like it.”
The Chargers were talking about Clark and the play after the game. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Dunlap saying: “"That guy was on top of Philip, and that's our quarterback. I protect the quarterback at all costs."
The bigger picture for the Seahawks is how Clark has been at times unblockable inside on passing downs because he is simply too fast or, as he showed last night when he bulled through Watt, too strong for guards or centers to handle. This is the first time Clark has ever rushed from the inside, and he says he’s still getting used to it after three preseason games in the new role.
Judging how successful he’s been this month expect new Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard to keep using Clark at defensive tackle with usual end Michael Bennett, with Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin outside, for Seattle’s fastest front-four pass rush in a year or three.
And when Clark gets in there again, expect him to heed Sherman’s lesson of being happy with the sack and nothing extra.