Seahawks counting on Frank Clark to provide pass-rush boost in second season

RENTON, Wash. -- During last week's OTAs, when the Seattle Seahawks' first-team nickel defense ran onto the field, Frank Clark set up at right defensive end.

That spot had been occupied in previous years by Bruce Irvin, but Irvin signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent. Now, his pass-rushing snaps are up for grabs, and Clark is the favorite to take the bulk of them.

"Here's a guy that came back to us with a little bit different makeup. Stronger, he looks faster than ever," Pete Carroll said. "Lost a few pounds. Came in a little bit leaner than when he had come in a year ago. He feels great. He just feels physically on it. We talked today about how much further down the road he is now in understanding what's expected of him and all that. He's having a blast playing with these guys, and again, there's so many guys that are just off to a great start this offseason. Frank's one of those guys."

Clark was on the field for 33.5 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps last year and finished with three sacks. He often was used as an interior pass rusher, but that looks like it's going to change in 2016.

The Seahawks produced sacks on 6.1 percent of their opponents' dropbacks last year, which ranked 15th in the NFL according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers, they notched just one sack and one quarterback hit on Cam Newton.

The defense has two very good pass rushers in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The pair combined for 19 sacks in 2015. Avril lines up almost exclusively at left defensive end, while Bennett has developed into one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. The team drafted Quinton Jefferson, who could potentially line up next to Bennett in passing situations. And the Seahawks brought Chris Clemons back to see if he still has the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks.

But the biggest change from last year's unit could be Clark. He is an elite athlete who will now have the opportunity to play meaningful snaps on the edge at right defensive end. If he can make the second-year leap, the Seahawks have a chance to field an excellent pass rush in 2016.

"I think he has the opportunity to be one of the best Seahawks to ever come through there," Bennett said of Clark during an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle earlier this month.

"Guys who are getting three sacks are getting $100 million these last couple years, so I think he’s going to get seven-plus sacks. I think he’s going to be super, super good this year."