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Notebook | Jets Safety Chuck Clark: 'I'm Back'

For OC Nathaniel Hackett, New Options


He was back on the field this week as the Jets took part in OTAs at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't recognize the guy wearing jersey No. 36.

It was about a year ago that safety Chuck Clark, signed in free agency after a sturdy and stellar career with the Baltimore Ravens, tore an ACL last June, which ended his first season for the Green & White before it could really get started.

"For me, I knew that I was in a new environment and then to come somewhere new and get hurt, and that was first time ever being hurt and just the embrace that I got from everybody around the building," Clark told Ethan Greenberg of "I felt embarrassed getting hurt. It was just a weird feeling in a new place. I get hurt and I'm embarrassed. But the vibe that I got from everybody else who's just like, welcome this is OK, you're gonna be alright, we know the type of player you are. So I think that feeling, just the vibe that I got from the defense, this top elite defense, to come and be a part of that."

Now it's a new season and Clark participated in Tuesday's voluntary session. He opted to re-sign with the Jets but is now viewed as a likely partner at safety with third-year undrafted free agent Tony Adams after Jordan Whitehead departed in free agency.

In his six seasons with the Ravens, Clark was a versatile cog in the Baltimore defense. He played more than 100 snaps in the slot, 300 in the box and 400 at free safety in each of his final three seasons there as he logged 100 percent of the snaps (more than 3,000 in all) on defense. In addition, he had 272 pass-rushing reps over those six seasons.

"The injury was so unfortunate, but during OTAs [last year] he gave us just a taste of what it's like to be in his presence," head coach Robert Saleh said recently. "And I'm talking about elite, elite character and locker room presence. Obviously, the football player has already been established in our mind. He is a heck of a football player. Incredibly instinctive. He's got great versatility to him."

With his pedigree, it's hard to imagine that Clark has much of anything to prove to the NFL and the Jets. It's much more personal.

"It was one of those things where I had never been hurt, it was just new," Clark said. "So for the first time in over, what, 20-plus years, I wasn't playing football in the fall, and the embarrassed feeling came from when I came to a new team. So I know how I've been in the past when a guy comes in. Like, 'oh, he's over in a tank.' So I felt like I was that guy that was in the tank.

"I understand that it's part of the game and injuries happen, but I mean I went through it and it happened for a reason. But I'm back."

OC Nathaniel Hackett Looks Ahead to Year 2
In his first season as the Jets' offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett basically had to edit his playbook after only four snaps of the Week 1 game against visiting Buffalo on "Monday Night Football."

Out went an injured Aaron Rodgers, in came Zach Wilson, to be followed by two other quarterbacks (Tim Boyle and Trevor Siemian), to be followed by an ever-changing offensive line (13 different combinations).

"I think every year you learn so much," Hackett said on Tuesday. "Every single year, you learn so many different things. We have to continually be ready for a lot of changes. I think that was one of the biggest things last year was, we faced a lot of change. When I look back on it, it was a great opportunity for a lot of guys to get some valuable experience to create more depth for this year, so I think those were a lot of good things.

He added: "You have to look at it and say change is the norm. You have to treat that as the normal and if you get the same 11 out there the whole year, that's not normal."

In anticipation of Rodgers being back under center, the Jets were active in free agency, providing their four-time NFL MVP, 40-year-old quarterback with more protection up front in veteran O-linemen Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses, and on the outside in WR Mike Williams. In the draft the Jets added Penn State OL Olu Fashanu, WR Malachi Corley, and a pair of promising running backs in Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis.

"You always want continuity," Hackett said. "I mean, it's across the board on all offenses. I think you look as the season goes on, the healthiest teams are usually hitting their stride and doing very well. You have to always plan for that, so the more you can mix and match them just for those instances is very important, but at the same time, the longer you can keep the front five going together it's always going to build a strong bond."

DC Jeff Ulbrich Gives a Nod and a 'Wink' to His Guys
The Jets' defense, perhaps the team's strongest and most consistent unit the past couple of years, can boast of its talent. But to defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, one of the biggest factors has been continuity -- from D-lineman Quinnen Williams, to linebackers C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, to the defensive backfield with D.J. Reed, Sauce Gardner and Michael Carter II.

"Continuity, especially on the back end is so critical," Ulbrich said. "These guys got to know each other's strengths, their weaknesses, their shortcomings, their superpowers, their kryptonites, they got to know all that. They also have to know how to communicate at the highest level and some of that communication over time becomes, it's just a wink. It's a little hand signal. It's very subtle and when you get to that level, that's where the really special stuff lives. So the fact that we have some continuity, that we've had guys that have been here in the system for multiple years now, it's exciting to think where they could take it."

And while the D-line lost two strong players -- John Franklin Myers (traded to Denver) and Bryce Huff (who signed in free agency with Philadelphia) -- Ulbrich received veteran pass rusher Haason Reddick in a trade with the Eagles and will depending upon the continued development of Jermaine Johnson and second-year player Will McDonald.

"I absolutely see him [Reddick] as a guy that can play every single down," Ulbrich said. "Although he is a little undersized [6-1, 240], he's great with leverage, hand placement. He understands how to play the position, both as a pass rusher, obviously, from the sack production, but obviously from an edge-setting standpoint and the beauty of it is we have such a diverse group. We've got a Micheal Clemons who's just got amazing physicality, toughness, length, size, and all of that. You got Jermaine that he can do it all really well. So we have guys that have different strengths, weaknesses and it's up to us as coaches to kind of put them in the best place to be successful and we will."

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