Chuck Clark had a mountain of responsibility dropped on his shoulders this weekend, and it just keeps coming.
On Friday, Clark and his wife, Aysha, welcomed their first child – a baby girl named Charleé Reign Clark – into the world.
On Sunday, he took over the “green dot” defensive communication helmet, making him the player responsible for relaying Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s playcalls to the rest of the unit.
On Monday, his importance in the Ravens’ secondary grew with the news that DeShon Elliott – the other part of the equation to replace Tony Jefferson – was headed to injured reserve.
Clark played every single defensive snap in a 23-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which the Ravens didn’t give up a touchdown until in the final two minutes. Suddenly, he’s a central figure in Baltimore’s defense.
“Just blessed, man. Thankful,” Clark said. “God gave me a great weekend.”
Clark played 59 snaps lined up all around the defense, from deep safety to a blended linebacker position during passing downs. The Ravens used defensive backs instead of inside linebackers in certain packages. When they did that, Elliott came into the game (25 snaps).
Clark finished with three tackles. He was “always in the right spot, made the plays he had to make,” head Coach John Harbaugh said. But Clark’s biggest impact went beyond the stats.
Jefferson took over the mic duties from linebacker Patrick Onwuasor in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. The Ravens had to make another decision last week on who would wear it after Jefferson went out, and Martindale said they tried out five players in practice.
Harbaugh said Clark got the nod because he was going to be on the field more than inside linebacker Josh Bynes and because Clark has always done a good job communicating.
“That went really well, especially for his first time doing it,” Harbaugh said. “That was one of the best things we did.”
With so many changes across the defense over the past two weeks – some by choice and some because of injuries – communication was even more important than usual. That burden is shared by everybody on the defense, but Clark is where it starts.
And after Sunday’s game, multiple defensive players were complimentary of how the unit’s communication was executed, which is harder when playing in the home crowd noise.
“Chuck did amazing today,” fellow safety Earl Thomas said. “He kept his poise; he got the call out to us, and we echoed it across the defense so that everyone could get it. I think he did a great job today.”
Clark handled the defensive play-calling duties while in college at Virginia Tech, and he had practiced it with the Ravens before. Linebacker Matthew Judon said he wasn’t at all surprised that Clark played at a starter’s level in his first game.
As the Ravens prepare to go to Seattle to face a dangerous offense led by MVP candidate Russell Wilson, Clark will have to take even more on his plate. But he seems ready for the job.
“He practices as a starter—since he came in, and it was no let up,” Judon said. “When he got the mic, he rallied the troops, huddled us up, gave us the call and got to where he needed to be and made sure that the coverage was on point. That’s exactly what he has to do, so he did his job at a high level.”