Monday, August 25, 2008

Okay, Who LOVES Ryan Clark as Much as I Do?

I wrote a Vikings recap column for SCI today and it was predictably awesome. Or, at the very least, predictable. Anyway, I ended it by saying Anthony Smith seems better suited as a strong safety, probably shouldn't ever be allowed to play free safety, so on and so forth -- you know the story.

I immediately got the following two comment on the post, and it sorta gave me pause for a couple reasons:
Well that is one thing this defense needs is a ballhawking FS to compliment Troy. We already have a guy that plays in the box. We need that centerfield type of guy who is reliable and can cover some ground. It will be interesting to see what Clark can do this year. I think he is "solid".....but I guess I am greedy and want more of a playmaker there at FS.
And this:
That's been my cry about the FS position. A lot of people here get excited about mediocrity at that spot, but they need a true ballhawk for sure. They can make do with Clark for the time being, because of the talent surrounding him throughout the defense, but it would be awesome to have that kind of FS playing on the back end. I actually think A. Smith has the hands and athleticism to make that happen, but he needs the mental part to go with it.
My response: "I'm a big Ryan Clark guy and I don't get why people think he's just average or slightly above. He's smart, fast, a hard hitter, has relatively good hands, and he's seldom out of position. Not sure what else he needs to do. He's not Ed Reed, but neither are the 30 other guys playing free safety. Of all the starting jobs that give me heartburn, FS is somewhere near the bottom of the list along with QB and WR."

So, I'm curious: do people really think Ryan Clark is mediocre? Does he get a lot of picks? Nope. Is he supposed to? Well, given that the Steelers play a lot of Cover-3, and Clark is literally the "last man back", I'd think not. But then again, I'm not a defensive coordinator.

I mean, I suppose he could take chances like Ed Reed, but for all the knob-polishing people like to do when talking about Reed, it's important to remember that he gets burned a fair amount because, well, he's out of position taking risks.

Two things: first, Reed's not a true free safety (nobody was making that argument above, just throwing it out there); Dawan Landry plays just as much deep coverage. Second, the Steelers had a free wheelin' free safety last year and that plan couldn't have been more poorly executed.

I'm not saying Pittsburgh wanted Anthony Smith to get beat deep twice a game, just pointing out that he was out of position (presumably trying to make a big play) and it didn't help the team's chances down the stretch.

Shorter version of this post: anybody unhappy with Ryan Clark's play? And, specifically, what should he be doing more of? (Responding "INTERCEPTIONS!" doesn't count; yeah, no shit. I mean, on planet Earth, given Pittsburgh's scheme, and all the other stuff we know, what else would we want from a free safety.)

I'll start: More Brent Alexander!