Camp Notebook: Frank Clark Seeking Competitive Fire in Rebuilt Chiefs Defense

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Chiefs put on the pads for the first time in the 2019 season on Monday, and for Frank Clark it marked the first step in creating a new atmosphere for a defense that lacked competitive fire last year.

“I feel like, being brutally honest, it wasn't here on the defensive side last year,” Clark said. “When you look around, you see total defense, we ranked 31st in the league, that doesn't make anyone proud. As a fan, as a coach, as a player, you shouldn't be proud.”

On Monday, Clark wanted to send a message that things have changed.

“We're going to be ready for sure,” Clark said. “It's a different defense. We're going to be ready for sure. I ain't going for that.”

The ownership of the defense Clark has assumed quickly is exactly why the Chiefs targeted him as a free agent during the offseason. Head coach Andy Reid loves the energy and commitment Clark infuses in the defense.

“You loved it when even when he was the opponent, the way he went about his business,: Reid said. “Now that he's on your team, you love it even more. That makes you better, it's infectious all the way across, both sides of the ball. It's a great thing.”

Clark had his fill of “touch football, that flag-football type” of work during the NFL offseason, so he looked forward to the first day in pads.

“When those pads come back, it seems like football starts to get back to back normal again,” Clark said.

The enthusiasm Clark strives to instill in this defense showed itself on day three of training camp. The defense won triumphantly in nine-on-seven run game work, and more than held its own against the high-powered passing game of the offense.

“We want to know, we won the day for sure,” Clark said. “Defense, we won the day for sure.”

Fog and clouds ruled early but eventually gave way to sunny skies for Monday's two hour and 45-minute practice. Monday also served as the first padded practice, and as usual it turned into a spirited affair on both sides of the ball.

After stretching and position drills followed by an installation period, the early hitting started nine-on-seven run-game work. The offense broke off a couple of nice runs, including a burst by rookie Marcus Marshall kicking to the outside and another by rookie Josh Caldwell, who shedding a couple of tackles for a long gain.

The full team period started off with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce hooking up for quick gain, and it also served as opportunity for the officials on hand for the day to throw the first of many, many flags.

The defense opened up with a little bit different look during 11-on-11 with Tanoh Kpassagnon starting at left end with Alex Okafor kicking inside along Chris Jones with Frank Clark lined up in a nine-tech on the right side. Anthony Hitchens, Reggie Ragland and Damien Wilson started at linebacker in the base package, with Hitchens and Wilson frequently pairing in substitution packages. The second remains unchanged from Sunday with Charvarius Ward and D'Montre Wade at corner, Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen at safety and Kendall Fuller coming in as the nickel corner.

Mahomes got rookie receiver Mecole Hardman involved early, connecting on the third play of 11-on-11. Hardman hauled in fives catches with a touchdown on the day.

During the extended seven-on-seven period, the offensive and defensive lines paired off for one-on-one drills with defenders attempt to beat their blocking counterpart for a win. KSHB's Nick Jacobs and Yahoo! Sports' Terez Paylor provided excellent commentary of the drills on Twitter.

The Chiefs wrapped up practice with another lengthy team period, which saw the worst sequence for the No. 1 offense thus far in camp. Mahomes started with a rollout to the right that never developed and he threw the ball away. After a completion to Carlos Hyde, Mahomes fired the ball high toward tight end Travis Kelce, who tipped the ball into the hands of Wade. After a run by Hyde, the No. 1 unit left the field following a bad snap between Mahomes and center Austin Reiter that went skittering into the backfield.

Otherwise Mahomes delivered another near-perfect performance, unofficially finishing the day 21-of-28 passing with one interception during full team drills and 13-of-16 during seven-on-seven work.

Play of the Day

On a day where the defense carried the day, give the best moment to a big guy touchdown. The defense broke up a screen play, and 6-4, 275-pound defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah found a Chad Henne pass come right at his belly. Ogbah secured the rock and rumbled all the way back for a pick-6.

Honorable mention: Mahomes went to Hill deep down the left side for a touchdown, with Hill speeding past slot corner Kendall Fuller for the score. Wade's latest interception of training camp resulted from on arguably the only errant Mahomes pass of the day.

Mecole Hardman: Mixing in with both the first- and second-team offense, Hardman had easily his best day in camp thus far. During the first round of 11-on-11 work, Hardman hauled in a quick grab from Mahomes, then a few minutes later blew past broken coverage for a long touchdown pass from Chad Henne. In the space of two plays later in practice, Hardman made a good break on dig route for a catch in front of Daniel Sorensen, then hauled in a deep post in stride for a big gain. He also showed off his skills in the backfield, taking a pitch from Henne and stretching it to the outside.

Defensive Performer of the Day

Frank Clark: The Chiefs put the pads on for the first time, and the defense owned the day. The defense was its strongest during the 9-7 on run period, setting the tone for the day. Clark was in the middle of it all, bring energy to the defense line. He also made his presence felt in passing game, putting pressure on the quarterback and showing the ability to drop in coverage when needed. Clark also showed off some of his best moves during the one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive lines.

Schwartz left practice early after his “back locked up on him a little bit,” according to Reid. Cam Erving took over at right tackle for Schwartz during the final 11-on-11 team period of the day. Wide receiver Gehrig Dieter briefly left practice with back spasms, and rookie running back Marcus Marshall sustained a groin strain.

Reaser suffered what appears to be the first major injury of camp with a suspected ruptured right achilles tendon. Reaser went down away from the action, and could not put away weight on his right left while getting helped on to the trainer cart.

Running back Damien Williams and safety Jordan Lucas sat out practice Monday after experience hamstring spasms over the weekend. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland remains out with a thumb laceration, but he expects to return soon.

Kelce appeared to come up limping on his right ankle at one point, but Reid dismissed as a rite of training camp.

“He got hit on it – that first time you get hit on it, you'll be like 'whoa-whoa', but he bounced up, come back and everything was OK.”

Safety Armani Watts (rib) officially passed his physical and has been removed from the non-football injury list.

Linebacker Darius Harris (shoulder) and defensive end Tim Ward (knee) remain on the non-football injury list.

13: Number of wide receivers in camp competing for the roster, which includes six receivers returning from last year's club (Hill, Watkins, Robinson, Kemp, Dieter and Pringle) and five rookies (Hardman, Jamal Custis, Felton Davis, Jody Fortson and Cody Thompson). Two others entered the league as undrafted rookies the past two seaons: Rashard Davis (signed with Eagles in 2017) and Davon Grayson (sign briefly with Chiefs in 2018).

“I tell you, Chris is going to make my job way easier, I tell you that. We're going to have a problem, though. We've got to share some sacks. He's got to share some sacks. He's getting a lot sacks, he's going to have to share some.”

– Frank Clark on new teammate Chris Jones

What's Next?

Chiefs come back on Tuesday morning for another 8:15 a.m. workout at Missouri Western State University. The first off day comes on Thursday after a quick practice at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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