FAB 3. Can Clarke Help Bucs’ Pass Rush?

Time ran out on Will Clarke IV in Cincinnati, and the Bucs are hoping that the 6-foot-6, 275-pound defensive end can jump start his career in Tampa Bay while helping the team’s struggling pass rush, especially with the sudden release of Jacquies Smith, who was slow to return from a torn ACL injury that cost him the entire 2016 season.

“I came down and worked out, and they were interested in signing me,” Clarke said. “I was interested in being signed.”

The Bucs are interested to see if a change of scenery – yet with some familiarity – can help Clarke reach his full potential. Clarke comes to Tampa Bay with 25 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his three-year career in Cincinnati as a reserve defensive end. Four of his career sacks came last year early, but he failed to progress as the season went on. Clarke is a defensive end with great physical tools, yet the Bengals viewed him as an underachiever and were prepared to move on from him in the offseason.

Bucs DE Will Clarke IV - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs DE Will Clarke IV – Photo by: Getty Images

In addition to Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap along with Michael Johnson at the position, the Bengals acquired defensive end Chris Smith from Jacksonville in the offseason, and then drafted two more defensive ends in Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, which sealed Clarke’s fate. He was released in the Bengals’ final roster cut-downs.

Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes helped draft Clarke in 2014 when he coached the Bengals’ defensive line. Clarke had 9.5 sacks in his West Virginia career, including six as a senior when he was considered to be a late bloomer by NFL scouts. While he had the size and athletic ability to be drafted, the lack of pass rush production pushed him down to the third round.

Clarke is happy to be reunited with Hayes and learned a lot from playing alongside Bengals like Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Dunlap.

“Carlos is a freak of nature for his size,” Clarke said. “He’s 6-foot-6, 280 pounds and can run like a cat and move like a cat. Carlos has taught me a lot of the stuff he learned from Coach Hayes about preparing for offensive tackles and what moves to use against certain guys. You can’t use the same move in certain situations.”

In his fourth season, the 26-year old still has some upside. Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been impressed with his work ethic and how quickly he’s assimilated into Tampa Bay’s defensive line rotation.

“I don’t know how much of a vet you would consider him, but Will has a lot of knowledge,” McCoy said. “You see him on tape and you see him in Cincinnati, but you don’t know what type of guy he’s going to be and what type of player and person. Then he comes in and fits right into the room. He just goes with the flow of how we do things. When he gets out of practice he works his tail off. He has a good skill set as far as rushing the passer. He’s picking the defense up pretty fast. I think Coach [Mike] Zimmer ran something similar. He’s going to help us out a lot and I’m glad we’ve got him.”

Bucs DE Will Clarke and DL coach Jay Hayes - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Will Clarke and DL coach Jay Hayes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Clarke adds the type of size Hayes likes in his defensive ends. In Cincinnati, three of Hayes’ defensive ends – Dunlap, Johnson and Clarke – were 6-foot-6, while Margus Hunt was 6-foot-8.

“With Coach Hayes, sure he likes tall guys, but if he thinks you have the potential to rush and he can teach you how to rush,” Clarke said. “As much as we like to think defenses are the same, every little defense has its tweaks and tricks of the trade. I think with the more reps I get in practice it will help. The more reps I get in the game – that’s the best way you can learn.”

After being inactive for the season opener against Chicago, Clarke played nine snaps on defense and three on special teams at Minnesota in his first action with the Bucs in Week 3, posting one tackle. In Sunday’s win against New York, Clarke saw an increase in playing time with 15 snaps on defense and seven on special teams. On Thursday night Clarke played six snaps on defense and recovered Tom Brady’s fumble after he was sacked by linebacker Adarius Glanton.

“He’s a guy that can play left defensive end and slide down inside,” Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. “He made a nice play, I believe, on the [special] teams. He got his hand on a punt. He is a guy that can push the pocket. He is still learning our system. The one good thing is, is it’s similar to what he was used to playing in Cincinnati. He is a big, long guy.”

Clarke nearly made a splash play on the Giants’ first punt of the game in the first quarter.

“I just got off and had it in my mind that I wanted to try to block it, but I overextended,” Clarke said. “I put my arm past it and it hit off my wrist. I’ve got to have better hand-eye coordination next time so I can do a [Dikembe] Mutombo and block it.”

Bucs DE Will Clarke IV - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Will Clarke IV – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith, who faces Clarke in practice, has been impressed with Tampa Bay’s newest defensive addition.

“He’s long, he’s quick and he’s a good pass rusher,” Smith said. “It’s obvious that he has experience. I’m sure it’s helped him coming here and having that background with Jay. He plays with great energy and he’s an asset to the team.”

Each year there is a defensive end at the bottom of the depth chart that the Bucs are attempting to mold into a contributing pass rusher, and Clarke is the latest addition that fits the criteria. Finding defensive ends that can get to the quarterback in the NFL isn’t easy, and general manager Jason Licht is always on the lookout for pass rushers.

While Licht had some initial success with Jacquies Smith, who was claimed off the waiver wire in 2014, prior to his torn ACL last year, he’s churned the roster with the likes of T.J. Fatinikun, Howard Jones, Kourtnei Brown and Ryan Russell over the last couple of years without much success outside of a few splash plays from Jones in 2015 before his knee injury. Perhaps Clarke will buck the trend.

“I’m more knowledgeable on situations and my opponent now,” Clarke said. “You can’t use the same moves every week. You have to be versatile and switch it up. Learning from the guys I was around in Cincinnati for three years – Geno, Mike, Domata, Carlos – and now learning from the guys down here and learning from Gerald, Clinton, Rob and even a young guy like Noah. I would say my game is balanced. I can play against both the run and the pass pretty well – inside and out.”

Bucs DE Will Clarke IV - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Will Clarke IV – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The departure of Smith, who had seven plays last week against the Giants, likely means an increase of snaps for Clarke as the season goes on. With the Bucs having just four sacks through four games, Tampa Bay needs all the help it can get rushing the passer.

“You can have a week where sacks are going to flow in and you are going to have a week where sacks aren’t,” Clarke said. “We’re not trying to do anything different or force anything. We’re going to stick to the plan. It’s Coach Smith’s defense and we’re going to run it to the best of our ability, learn the best that we can and just execute. We’ll be all right. I don’t think there is anything to worry about.

“The one thing all quarterbacks have in common is that they don’t want to be hit. Nobody wants to be hit. Don’t buy into the name and keep everything consistent. Whether it’s Mike Glennon, Case Keenum, Eli Manning or Tom Brady. All have different abilities throwing the football, but at the end of the day when defensive linemen are running at them they all want to do the same thing. We’ve just got to get them down.”

1
2
3
4
5
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Subscribe
Notify of
41 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
MudManVA

Nice article and good podcast last night. All good points: Offense choppy play calling can be better Winston being better in the 1st quarter Run Martin more Defense short handed soft coverage All these things are true. All that being said NE didn’t look that much better than the BUCS last night. NE got help with sustaining drives on penalties too. Brady wasn’t great. The difference last night was NE made their field goals & the BUCS didn’t. Period. Missing FG’s and not being able to count on your kicker effects play calling, morale, and momentum. We all believe the… Read more »

Horse

You said it all.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Dman

How great would it be to have 99 coaching the D line.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
MIArmysoldier

I was thinking the same thing…

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Naplesfan

Good Fab 5, Scott, as usual. There’s too many missing pieces in our puzzle right now. Jameis’s ability to read defenses is just not very good, and his accuracy on throws is just all over the place … he’ll make a great ball placement on one throw, then just flat out misses on the next throw leaving us scratching our heads. The defensive line play was better last night, but we still left Tom Brady too many easy throws. Sure, they’re the no. 1 offense in the league, but our objective is to beat offenses like that, like a drum,… Read more »

Julian Pere

I agree with Sapp on the defensive changes that need to be made. I would also like to add that one of the things I’ve noticed that we are lacking on the D-line is speed. We’ve got the size and strength all across the line but we are definitely lagging on speed. If you notice the majority of the teams that have an impressive rush have defensive end speed. And that speed is such a force that it causes the protective O-line to collapse. Bottom line no pressure no take always. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

Dman

Patrick Murray, our kicker from a couple years ago, may be a free agent. He beat out Connor Barth but was injured and waived the following year. Be nice to see him back at One Buc…..

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
gafikdetail

koetter offense & play calling sucked… never gets his QB into a rhythm early… all low percentage throws down field

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
e

I wonder if Jameis gets himself too psyched up before the national games? I know he’s the captain his thing is to get everyone pumped; but might he benefit with some kind of medidative focus before he hits the field? Pure adrenaline is great for some of the positions on the field, but maybe he could benefit from a different approach. He’s too fired up early and it shows. As he settles into games and calms down, he seems to play better. I think it would be worth investigating.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
macabee

e,

You may be on to something. Did anybody see how lathered up Winston was when he was greeting players as they left the locker room? One of the announcers noted how worked up he was. I love the passion, but if/when it borders on frenzy, it’s probably not a good thing. Perhaps it helps him get pumped to perform and motivates his teammates, so I’m hesitant to say he shoulder wear earpods and chill. lol. I just want the guy to succeed by any means necessary. Go Bucs!

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Cerious

On one hand you want Jameis to be elite and win games, so he gets the majority of the blame for this loss. But on the other hand the kicker misses 3 fieldgoals and I’ll give him the 56 yarder, but that still 6 points left on the floor for no good reason. 6 points wins us the game. On top of that you can’t blame Winston for not being elite when Brate is dropping TD passes in the endzone. That drop was crucial! Not only did we not get 6 points, but Folk went out and missed the gimme… Read more »

buddah

The last play of the game was inexcusable and Jamies knows it. He panicked. His will to win showed big-time in the game. He just needed one more sharp throw. The next eight games will be a challenge. They are all winnable and loseable. Six on the road. We have to split the road games and win the two home games. If we can make it to 7 and 5, we’ve got a shot. I thought all along, the team was being overhyped because it would take time to integrate Howard and Jackson into the offense and to establish a… Read more »

sunshineben

Winston was not the best qb in the draft by most nfl people .Bucs fired 2 head coaches(Dungy,Gruden) who put their vote on M.M. who beat Winston on EVERY category at the nfl combine. Winston has great receivers but look at qb ranking by the nfl. M.M. has been listed ahead of Winston every year since being drafted. Winston may be a local fan fave from a great school but not the best qb drafted, no matter how much he gets praised.( dont hate me:>)).. I am a bucs fan and have season tkts so i will pull for Winston… Read more »

deeznuts

Mariota isnt better in # games played, total yards, or touchdowns. Mariota hasnt played a 16 game season yet. Winston grinds every week. Sure, it’s a toss-up between the two at this point. Theyre both quality QB’s. It’s best not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Winston threw for over 300 yards yesterday without any turnovers.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
cgmaster27

OH now we have to listen to your carp again? How is mariota? Not playing again this week I see. Look at the stats this year clown.
60% completion
3 tds
3picks
1 fumble
oh and hasn’t played a full season in 5 years dating back to college.
Get over yourself already, Mariota will never QB this team.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Naplesfan

It’s not helpful to argue Winston vs. Mariota, period. It’s just not relevant to anything that matters. It’s especially not helpful to argue that based on stats. In terms of total QBR, this season to data Maritoa is ranked #6 in the league at 62.6, while Winston is ranked #26 in the league at 40.2, two spots below Blake Bortles (ouch!). Last night Jameis had a QBR of only 27.4. No matter the stats. Jameis is our quarterback, and he is playing only sort of OK so far, rather than the big leap forward in his third season that PR… Read more »

cgmaster27

Actually Naples, thats’ using ESPN’s corky ass formula. Going to an actual NFL site the ratings are as follows. Jameis 4 154 94 61.0 38.5 1,198 7.8 299.5 7 4.5 3 1.9 58T 12 2 7 46 92.4 Mariota 4 110 66 60.0 27.5 792 7.2 198.0 3 2.7 3 2.7 55T 11 2 2 5 79.8 The last numbers are NFL ratings. SO yeah I can use stats to back up my claims. Point is, I”m tired of hearing about mariota so I’m going to respond with facts every time I do. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Naplesfan

Total QBR is the gold standard of quarterback stats. You can cherry pick whatever you like, but 95% of the NFL world relies on Total QBR. The stats aren’t “corky ass” – they reflect everything that a quarterback does, from the basic matters of completion ratios and yards per attempt, to the game conditions (downgrading “garbage time” stats), etc. Per the gold standard of QB stats, Jameis is a bottom tier (bottom one third of the league’s starters) player this season to date. Jameis was much better last year, in the upper half, but still far from elite. I’m not… Read more »

cgmaster27

The gold standard? Please. So explain when they show qb stats before a game they don’t be use those stats? And yes they do take into account situation. Jameis quarterback rating isn’t 113 when the team is within7 points. So explain how he has more td, better completion percentage, and and his best qb right when the game is close. SO You can cherry pick and stick to espns “golden standard” I’ll stick to my stats. Golden standard, my goodness you come a crossed as a condescending know it all sometimes. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

cgmaster27

Oh and one more thing, your precious QBR has mariota ranked ahead of Mathew Stafford, Drew Brees and Aaron rogers this year, and if you think that, you need to stop watching football.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Naplesfan

If you think anybody in the league, or who covers the league professional, seriously believes that Jameis is performing well this year, or is “elite”, or is making progress towards becoming elite, you’re smoking crack. You’re letting your garnet and gold slip show, CG. Jameis’s performance this season so far is described by virtually everybody but cracked out Nole homers as mixed, mediocre, up and down, take your pick. Jameis himself describes his performance that way. Bucs fans (as opposed to rabid Nole fans) describe his performance that way. His coaches describe his performance that way. That is not to… Read more »

Buc 1976

Give Jamis a valium before a game.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
deeznuts

Sure, Winston could have played better but he was one of very few bucs who kept us in the game yesterday. You cant have a 23 year old QB throw 47 times a game and expect to win consistently. He missed Jackson on a few deep balls and forced a few others. But the game isnt won and lost on the quarterback. You cant blame winston for missing a throw to a rookie TE as time expires without any timeouts, and no hope that the kicker is behind you. Brate got hit in the chest with two passes in the… Read more »

Naplesfan

Your comments makes a lot of sense … that is, until you take account of the fact that our defense limited the number one offense in the league to less than 2/3 of their average PPG in the four prior games this season. And until you consider that our offense only scored 14 points .. virtually nobody can expect to win an NFL game by scoring only 14 points.

The defense didn’t lose this game – the offense and special teams (kicker, really) lost this game.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
surferdudes

The 49ers spent a high first round pick on a D end yet they have a dismal pass rush. Browns did the same, but due to a foot problem he hasn’t been a factor. If you’re counting on the Bucs using their first pick on a D end to solve their pass rush woes, you may be very disappointed. I like the idea of Sapp as our D line coach. He’d bring an intensity, and attitude to a line that is lacking. His comments were enlightening. Why does an offensive minded coach defer to his 30th ranked defense when he… Read more »

Naplesfan

Note that only one team in the entire league is allowing less than an average of 14 PPG … Buffalo, at 13.5 PPG … and since the NFL does not allow fractional points, our offense and special teams together managed to score what only one team in the league has allowed.

Offense and S/T simply have to score a lot more points.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Naplesfan

Sorry, Surfer … my reply was intended to go to deeznuts, not you.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
bEubanks11

It seems to me that both Koetter and Winston play these big games not to lose until they need to play to win. Winston also doesn’t seem to yet be able to handle the pressure of being the guy. He talks the talk but I don’t believe he truly believes in himself to be the guy. Again, seems to be throwing passes like a baseball pitcher who’s struggling to throw strikes. He’s dropping his elbow and wishing the ball to a spot instead of trusting his talent and throwing the damn ball with confidence. Throwing passes in the fourth quarter… Read more »

4girls

I’m wondering if Koetter needs to let his OC call the plays. It’s not easy to be the HC and call the game. Our best offensive season in recent memory was when Koetter was OC. I remember him saying when he became HC that he would call the plays, but would be open to changing if needed. I’m wondering if that might be the case. Might be something to consider sooner rather than later. Thoughts?

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
fl0nase

I don’t know enough about Monken to know whether he’s an upgrade to Koetter from a play calling perspective.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
4girls

Me either, Fl0nase. But, there’s only one way to find out.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
fl0nase

Loved the points that SR made about his big game ability in college. I don’t watch college but it sounds like he had a sense of belonging, the stage wasn’t too big for him, and he just did his thing like he can. To me with him as a Buccaneer, he’s too amped up. I’m not sure the state still isn’t a bit too big for him in his mind. Tom Brady’s an idol and you heard how excited he was to meet him in some of the pregame commentator chit-chat. He needs to put that out of his mind.… Read more »

Horse

Can we please chill a little; I know we want to win every game, but it’s not reality. The blame can be spread all around from players, coaches, and GM. Time to move on and make adjustments where it’s feasible. Go Bucs! Let’s get this next win?

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
chefboho

Horse I’m in agreement with you. I’ve been reading on other bucs sites how our unruly fan base wants a new quarterback already! It’s mind boggling. There’s so many reasons for why and how we lost last night and jameis is just a small part. I enjoy knowing we have a quarterback that has the fire and passion jameis does. This team is behind him and after all the issues we had last night, we still took the super bowl champs down to the last play. This is a young squad and our quarterback isn’t even 25 yet. Rate this… Read more »

XpfcWintergreen

Being an old f*rt …

I have watched the development of some of the best and the “fizzling out” of a few “sure things” in regard to some NFL quarterbacks over the years. I have followed the development of John Elway, Bret Farvre , RG3 and Andrew Luck (?? “jury’s still out”) … just to name a few.

I see Jameis as “right on schedule” so far. He is still up and down in his play. Now, after the end of this season ……?

_____________
Go bucs!!!!

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
bigbuc

Elite??
For 3 quarters Winston wasn’t even GOOD

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
DrT1066

Free agent pass rushers Ah oh yeah-
Calais Campbell.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Buc 1976

DrT we should have tried harder to sign Campbell.

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
bucballer

Like all, I’m disappointed that the Bucs lost this game and with a national audience watching. Thought it was a statement game for the Bucs. Having said that… we played one of the premier teams in the NFL with HOF QB and almost pulled it out had we made a kick or two. I think with the key Starters missing we made it a close game! If we have those 4 Starters playing… I think we win the game! We are 2-2 and will get our Starters back next week. While I cuss Jamesis at times with his inconsistent throws…… Read more »

76Buc

Please end all discussion about Clemson defensive ends!!! Can’t we learn the lessons of history?

0
0
No votes yet.
Please wait...
Jordan Chavez

All the Winston crap can stop…. Yes he didn’t have a perfect game. But the dude is 23 and still got us to a point where we had an opportunity to win the game against the world champs…. Instead of us fighting for a top 10 pick like we did however many years in a row we are now all playoff hopefuls! That’s what Winston is doing. He is developing and learning. He led the game winning drive against NYG and I’m sure he will have a few more this year. With that being said.. Yes, he did get off… Read more »