"To be GMC Professional Grade you must know your craft inside and out. On every team, there must be an established veteran presence, that with the work that he does, it doesn't really show up in the stat sheet. It could be a veteran DB who give that jersey pull or a nice arm lock, so the receiver can't catch the ball. Or an offensive lineman who's crafty enough to get the hold real tightly to where the refs won't call it, but the back, he's off for a big run. Now, look at your team and analyze. Tell me, who's that crafty veteran on your team. And if you're really paying attention, what's the signature move that he uses?"
Crafty veteran? I spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify one guy who Marshall would be excited about. When your team is 3-8, there isn't a whole lot of craftiness involved. There is one guy, however, that simply has to qualify for this: Ryan Clark.
The 35-year old free safety is cagey. Some would argue he never enjoyed the kinds of physical attributes that make safeties truly elite in the NFL. Tell that to his 13- year old career.
At his age and physical capability, Ryan Clark relies on things that rookies only dream about being able to utilize. He knows about taking angles (take notes Baccari!). He knows about the importance of holding up a ball-carrier long enough to wait for the cavalry to arrive. Sometimes this means laying a crushing hit to change the direction--ever so slightly--so that his teammates are in better position to finish the tackle. Other times, Clark knows that he is the last man and must attack a lower portion of the runner's body to make the stoop himself.
Is he playing at an All-Pro level in 2014? No, but have you seen some of the safeties we have employed in recent years? I always liked the way Reed Doughty put his nose in just so he could be the "first man there" with the full confidence that his teammates would come to gang tackle a bigger body to the ground. Ryan Clark knows when to be the first man there and he knows how to deliver the last blow of a play as well. If others get there first, he is quick to take a shot to the body of the ball-carrier to attempt to wear down his opponent.
There likely isn't a better answer to this question on our roster than Ryan Clark. That is why we signed him, and that is why our safety play has been elevated this season (from a disastrously low level).
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