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90-in-90 Bengals Roster Breakdown: Year 3 the charm for Will Clarke?

Will Clarke is ready to step up and make sure the Bengals can't keep him off the field in 2016.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

For the Bengals, defensive end is a position of strength when it comes to the starters.

However, every defense needs depth at this position, especially with the NFL being as pass-happy as it has become. That's why those third and even fourth defensive ends on a team’s roster can be key players who get a heavy amount of snaps throughout the season.

That's why Will Clarke may very well have a bigger role on this Bengals defense than most are anticipating. Entering his third NFL season at 25-years-old, Clarke hasn't seen the field much in his first two NFL seasons as a reserve end. The Bengals originally drafted him in the third round out of West Virginia in 2014 as a project pass-rusher.

Almost immediately, Clarke drew comparisons to former third-round project Michael Johnson. Seeing how well Johnson's career has played out, you can see why Cincinnati took another swing hoping that could find another MJ.

But after two seasons, Clarke has only produced 0.5 sacks and seven total tackles. While these numbers are far from productive, Clarke hasn't exactly gotten the chance to be a productive player in a defense that's been deep at all 11 spots. With just 62 snaps in 2014 and then 134 snaps in 2015, Clarke has never been able to find his footing or rhythm as a pro player.

The one time that happened in 2015 was in Week 2 vs the Chargers. That was a game in which Clarke shared a sack and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage.


That doesn't mean he'd be a good player with more snaps, but it does show that he's not been on the field enough for us to know what he is. Most assume he's nothing more than a reserve who's just fighting for a roster spot, but we just won't know until he's playing with the starters more, whether it's in camp, the preseason or even the regular season. His first effort in the preseason was a good one, so the hope is, Clarke will continue to impress as the season wears on.

Player Info

Height: 6-6
Weight: 280 lbs
Age: 25
College: West Virginia
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Experience: 3rd-Year Player


2016 Stock

On one hand, the Bengals' lack of depth would seem to have Clarke poised for a major jump in production and his overall roll with the team going forward. But Clarke has done nothing to show he's capable of taking that role through his first two years in the NFL.

At least Clarke is still young and should have a chance this season to prove his worth in 2016. During the regular season, he's yet to show anything to suggest he'll be able to give the Bengals good snaps at end, but he was viewed as a developmental guy who would take two to three years to become an effective player.

The fact that this is a make-or-break year for Clarke with a great chance to 'make' it, we'll say that his stock is slightly up entering the 2016 season. And, his first preseason game gave fans a lot to hope for moving forward.

Roster Chances

The truth is, there's just no other viable options to replace Clarke as that fourth end on the 53-man roster. Assuming Margus Hunt does enough to win a spot, the only competition Clarke has is undrafted free agents Ryan Brown and Jack Gangwish.

So much for competition. Clarke has around a 75-percent chance of making the final roster with no threats existing at this position.