Tommy Lawlor and Tony Pauline are among the growing army of football writers who think the Eagles should take a long look at West Virginia’s Will Clarke as a guy they could move from DE to the right-side outside linebacker position.
The Eagles actually did work Clarke out as a linebacker at his recent Pro Day in West Virginia.
Lawlor gives an excellent description of the unique qualities necessary to play the ROLB position in his column at Igglesblitz.com from April 13th.
To sum up Lawlor’s piece in the most simple terms, this is the guy you need to go up against the opponent’s left tackle—usually their best blocker. This is the guy you need who can effectively rush the passer, but also be versatile enough to defend the run and drop back into coverage.
Clarke could conceivably be that guy. He’s listed as a defensive end— but he played all over the field in college.
Clarke is expected to be available through the 3rd Round of the draft— so he is within the Eagles’ range of making a move for him.
Measurables updated through late March 2014:
6-6, 271… arm length 34 and 5/8 inches….4.77 in the 40-yard dash…22 reps in bench press…32″ vertical leap…111 inches broad jump… Three-cone shuttle 7.26 seconds…
He’s quicker than he is fast, he has a long reach, and he’s still growing (his father is 6-8 and a former basketball player at Duquesne U.)…He likes to rush from the outside, but has been no stranger to inside stunting, too. His real strength has been in tracking down the quarterback from the outside edge. WVU often lined him up at a 9-technique as well as a 5-technique defensive end.
Clarke still has a lot to learn about defending the run. His tendency in college was to bend around to make plays, which often left his gap assignment uncovered. Sometimes he was double-teamed and overpowered. But he is athletic enough and smart enough, you’d like to believe the Eagles coaching staff can teach him how to overcome those deficiencies.
At the very least, it’s fun to project Clarke as a situational pass-rusher from the ROLB position for the Eagles. Watching him succeed and develop in that role alone would be a blast for Eagles fans. It’s been a while since we’ve seen that kind of disruption from a right-side linebacker.
Clarke is intriguing to me because he is big, quick and affordable. Right now Trent Cole is penciled in as the Eagles’ starting ROLB. Cole is in his 10th year. I can easily imagine Cole taking Clarke under his wing and accelerating Clarke’s learning curve. Plus wouldn’t it be great to see a young guy like Clarke able to spell Cole a breather in certain game situations—and yet still create some havoc on his own?
So that’s the case for Will Clarke in a nutshell. Yes, he would be a project if you are thinking long-term solution at ROLB…but a practical investment in that he could pay certain situational dividends right now.