It has not been a good preseason for Bengals defensive end, Will Clarke. Drafted in the third round out of West Virginia in the 2014 NFL draft, Clarke was expected to help ease the loss of Michael Johnson this offseason.
After all, Clarke was given Johnson's old 93 jersey number. In reality, the Bengals knew Clarke was more of a project, and probably won't contribute greatly as a rookie.
That belief has been reinforced through two preseason games. Clarke is the lowest rated defensive end via Pro Football Focus' ratings. In 69 snaps this preseason, Clarke has produced just two tackles, one QB hurry and one QB hit, good for a -6.2 grade, ranking him 96/96 defensive ends who've played in at least 25 percent of their team's snaps this preseason. His -4.7 run defense grade is the primary culprit.
Again, this shouldn't come as a surprise, Clarke, 6-foot-6 and 271 pounds, was regarded as an "athletic freak" who needed to develop his overall football skills. He ran a 4.77 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
During his senior season, Clarke posted six quarterback sacks and 17 tackles for loss, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Coming into the draft, CBS Sports' Rob Rang compared Clarke to current Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones.
Jones has quickly developed into one of the league's better young pass rushers as his 11.5 sacks in 2013 can attest. Think of Clarke as a poor man's version, whose sack total will probably hover close to half of Jones' in a given year once he acclimates to the NFL. Scouts will love Clarke's length and dedication, however, two traits which have helped Jones become successful so quickly.
It's far too early to give up on Clarke's career, but it is becoming evident he won't be counted on early in his rookie season.