GREEN BAY – It isn’t just the added strength from spending a full offseason in the weight room, though that has helped Kenny Clark, too.
The Green Bay Packers defensive tackle, dubbed the most improved second-year player by coach Mike McCarthy on Thursday, said he has noticed the game slow down this spring.
“Kenny Clark probably may be our best, most improved second-year player in this stage right now,” McCarthy said. “He looks great.”
Clark said he feels great on the practice field. Less anxious. More prepared. A year ago, he was a rookie trying to learn the playbook while adjusting to how quickly the pro game unfolds.
Now, Clark feels he has caught on.
“I’m more comfortable,” Clark said. “I feel explosive as far as I know the system, I know the guys around me, I know what they like to do so I can play off of them. I’m just not as anxious as I was before, trying to rush and run to the ball. Looking around, look at the formation, I’ve slowed down. I’m looking at what the offensive linemen are doing. I’m looking at his hands, at the alignments, all of that.
“It’s slowed down a lot for me.”
The Packers spent their offseason trying to assemble a dominant defensive line. They added Ricky Jean Francois through free agency and drafted Montravius Adams in the third round. Both figure to factor into the rotation, especially as five-tech defensive ends.
But at the heart of the Packers' nickel defense, which features only two defensive linemen, is the ability to pressure quarterbacks from the interior. That starts with Clark and defensive tackle Mike Daniels.
An improved Clark would go a long way toward giving the Packers their best defensive line in years. When training camp opens in five weeks, nothing will be more important than Clark handling the speed of the game.
“Especially when you’re inside,” Clark said. “The centers and guards are super quick. It can get real quick in there.”