After selecting running back Jeremy Hill in the second round, the Cincinnati Bengals decided to replace former defensive end Michael Johnson with near-replica Will Clarke from West Virginia. At 6-foot-6, 271 pounds (Johnson – 6-foot-7, 266 pounds), Clarke is the prototypical Cincinnati defensive end – tall, lengthy and quick with the ability to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage.
CBS Sports’ scouting report on Clarke shows the uncanny resemblance to Johnson:
“Possesses a rangy, athletic build with a broad wingspan. Good initial explosion off the snap. Can cross the face of left tackles, forcing them wide and creating gaps for stunting or blitzing teammates, as well as zip inside for an impressive counter-move. Shows some core flexibility to dip under the reach of pass-blockers and flashes good hand use to rip free from their grasp. Attentive, especially in the passing game. Has learned to use his length and overall athleticism to distract quarterbacks, waving his arms and timing his leap in an attempt to tip passes at the line of scrimmage… jumped from zero to three to seven PBUs over his three seasons as a starter… Good strength to hold up surprisingly well in the running game. Anchors well, locking out would-be blockers and keeping his knees bent and butt down to create a pile. Hard worker.”
A big positive in Clarke’s play is his ability to shut down the run game, a part of the game that Johnson struggled with when he came out of Georgia Tech. The addition of Clarke gives Cincinnati the ability to continue the success of defensive-line rotation – a scheme that has successfully kept the linemen fresh throughout each game. Clarke also allows the Bengals to continue working on project Margus Hunt (last year’s second round draft pick) without rushing him into an every-day role.
Many mock drafts had Cincinnati going for a quarterback in the third round. However, with Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Tom Savage and AJ McCarron falling further than expected, Cincinnati’s ability to gain one of these in the fourth round continues to increase.