Packers Defender Kenny Clark’s Opponent is Still Flying

Fly, fly away, little blocking birdie... 

When Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark used the “club move” to toss Bears center Sam Mustipher—who weighs 332 pounds—through the air, it reminded me of the late great Packers defensive end Reggie White.

Reggie, of course, used the club move regularly to toss man-mountains aside like they were teddy bears.

I got to know Reggie pretty well in 1998 while working for the team, and he’d call me his “little buddy” which, in some circumstances, might be insulting, but with Reggie it was endearing. And it fit—when Reggie hugged me, all the lights literally went out in the locker room until he released me. If he had ever used the club move on me, I’d still be orbiting the earth like Stephen Hawking in Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song.”

I’m not implying that Clark is as good as White. I’ve never seen anyone take away an entire side of a field, run and pass, like White did. Opponents couldn’t run his way, roll out his way, and had better release the ball high if they were going to throw over his way. In my very biased opinion, “Reg-gie, Reg-gie” was the greatest defender ever. (And, he didn’t need to snort anything before games in order to dominate them.)

But Clark may be as important to the 2022 Packers team as Reggie was to his teams in the 1990s. On the Bears' first drive of the week 2 Packers-Bears game, the only one in which the Bears scored a touchdown, Chicago doubled Clark on every play except one. On that one play, Clark nearly made a tackle for loss--until he got tackled from behind by the offensive lineman. On the touchdown run by quarterback Justin Fields, they triple teamed Clark with two linemen plus the tight end.

When Clark came off the field for a few plays in the fourth quarter, Chicago began to run wild. Sure, the Packers had a substantial lead and were daring the Bears to run, but Clark’s peers were getting blocked down like bowling pins. When he returned into the game, the defense held, with Clark staying low on the goal-line stand.

While Clark may have just three solo tackles and two assists through two weeks, his strength, leverage, balance, heavy hands to get blockers’ hands off him, and quickness to finish plays combine for an impact that means immeasurably more. When the Bears didn't double- or triple-team him, he'd use one arm to play "half the man," keeping the other arm free to make a tackle for no gain. In short, the opposing offensive linemen were his “little buddies.”

In 1996, Packers GM Ron Wolf had gotten White some help on the defensive line. Gilbert Brown had become a dominant (and enormous) defensive tackle who could run sideline-to-sideline. Wolf had signed Sean Jones from Houston two years prior to be the bookend to White, and then defensive tackle Santana Dotson signed in ’96 as the final piece.

Current Packers GM Brian Gutekunst made a similar move by signing Jarran Reed from Kansas City in the offseason. Like Dotson, Reed was not exactly a splashy move, but Reed has flashed both the ability to make a tackle for loss and sniff out screens, if also the ability to occasionally play too high and get spun out of his lane. He made a key play pushing the pocket on the fourth and goal-line stand.

If Reed can be as consistent as he wants to be, if young defensive tackle TJ Slaton can play even a few snaps in proximity to the quality of his jersey number's namesake—Gilbert Brown’s 93 (and Slaton did hold his own in the second quarter for a few plays subbing for Clark), and Dean Lowry uses the power moves and discipline that were so effective for him last year, Clark could be free to face more one-on-one battles with little buddies.

When Clark came back in for Slaton in the second quarter, he got to Fields so fast Fields fled, ran about five yards past the line of scrimmage like he was being chased by the Human Torch--then threw downfield, drawing a penalty for an illegal pass. 

Incidentally, Tampa Bay is starting backup center Robert Hainsey against Kenny Clark. Hainsey weighs 306 pounds.

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Chris Hollenback worked for the Packers in 1998-1999, he has written for Packers.com and other media outlets, he's much shorter than Derrick Mayes and Brett Favre nicknamed him Chris "To-hell-en-back." Follow him on twitter at @CHollenback

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Comments (5)

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 20, 2022 at 07:36 pm

The announcer in the Eagles-Giants snippet sounded like Hank Hill. I don't think Mike Judge was announcing games back then though!

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T7Steve's picture

September 21, 2022 at 07:40 am

The main reason this hurts so much is that if he's getting double and triple teamed the LBs and other line players should be free to make the play. I hope they can start to gel and work better together. If the line can stop the run and get pressure on the pass it will open a whole new world for the whole D.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 21, 2022 at 09:40 am

Maybe another Gilbert Brown type would help Clark? I still think that his skills are being wasted at nose.

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jont's picture

September 21, 2022 at 12:18 pm

I remember in the off season Kenny showed off a slimmer body. I said something about trusting/hoping that he wouldn't lose any strength along the way. In Clark I trust.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 21, 2022 at 09:30 pm

Can't wait for this game, I think Brady is in for a surprise.

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