We’re continuing the series we started recently. Last time we covered defensive tackles and my general thoughts about them. This time, we’re covering every defensive end that was on the active roster this year. Enjoy!
Defensive Ends This Season: Frank Clark, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Breeland Speaks (IR), Demone Harris, Emmanuel Ogbah (IR), Alex Okafor (IR), Terrell Suggs
Stats: 17 of 19 games, 13 sacks, 21 QB hits, 65 pressures, 43 tackles (33 solo), 17 TFLs, 3 forced fumbles, 1 recovered. Ran at 35 times, gave up 169 yards (4.8 yards per carry).
We’ll start with the big one, which was Frank Clark. Clark basically had two 2019 seasons: The first 6 weeks, and the rest of the season. With injuries such as pinched nerves and a stomach virus that made him lose 20 pounds, Clark had a weird 2019. To be frank (no pun intended), he wasn’t good to start the year. In 6 games, he had 1 sack and 10 pressures. Compare that to the next 11 games he played, and Clark had 12 sacks and 55 pressures. Clark performed his best in the postseason though, having 5 sacks and 20 pressures in 3 games.
As a pass rusher we weren’t able to see Clark use too many complex moves as a rusher early on due to the pinched nerve he suffered in the preseason, which limited his ability to fully use his hands and arms.. He wasn’t able to generate as much power as he could in Seattle, limiting his bull rush. Clark did adjust to the issue though, relying on more power and Ghost techniques to generate a pass rush. With that and relentless effort Clark was still able to make a significant impact as a rusher.
On paper, Clark’s run defense stats don’t look great. If you subtract the Super Bowl, where the 49ers ran a ton of reverses (on which Clark did his job), Clark finished with 33 carries-at for 123 yards, which is only 3.7 yards per carry. His play recognition, effort, and overall strength as an edge setter really showed up all year long, even with the injuries.
In terms of improvement, Clark just needs to be healthy. Everything in his game is fine. He has to be healthy for 19 games though, not just playing through things. I hope he gets all the surgery and rest he needs. I would be 100% okay with Clark not being in OTAs or even a part of training camp, just to ensure he’s ready for next year.
Overall, I was happy with Clark. His passion, leadership, and play were all worth it for me. I hope he gets healthy, just so we can see an elite Clark for an entire season.
Status for next year: Keep him
Stats: 10 of 19 games, 5 sacks, 9 QB hits, 22 pressures, 22 tackles (15 solo), 5 TFLs, 1 forced fumble, 0 recovered. Ran at 11 times, gave up 50 yards (4.5 yards per carry).
Okafor also had a weird year. He was brought in to rotate with Emmanuel Ogbah on the defensive line, while being the 3rd best pass rusher on this team. After a really strong training camp and preseason, Okafor didn’t really start out the year well. After a few injuries in the middle of the year, he had a sack in two straight games before going on IR with a torn pec. He barely played 50% of games this year, missing games with 3 different injuries.
Okafor mainly used power and a lot of clubbing. He wasn’t trying to beat you around the arc, but with more speed to power. He didn’t look very good as a pass rusher for the majority of the year. In all reality, he was our fifth best pass rusher (Jones, Clark, Ogbah, Tanoh). If Okafor wants to stay in our rotation, he’ll have to improve on his skills as a rusher.
As a run defender, he was up and down. He set a pretty nice edge, but his play recognition and back-side help ability was pretty poor. Good tight ends could usually block him in a one-on-one situation.
Overall, Okafor has to get better at setting the edge and become more refined as a pass rusher. It come down to if he wants to stay on this roster, he has to be a better run defender. As a pass rusher, when he can tee off he does fine, so if he can get to the point where he teams don’t directly run at him he can be a better pass rusher.
The Chiefs only save 3 million by cutting Okafor. He makes sense for 2020. Still, if he wants playing time in 2020 he has to earn the trust of this staff. Staying healthy for 16 games is imperative for our defense next season.
Status for next year: Keep him
Stats: 19 of 19 games, 6 sacks, 14 QB hits, 46 pressures, 34 tackles (24 solo), 8 TFLs, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered. Ran at 26 times, gave up 130 yards (5.0 yards per carry).
I’ll be the first person to admit I’m wrong. I was SO wrong on Tanoh. I didn’t think he would make the roster this year. I didn’t think he would get much playing time. With relentless effort and improvement, he made a big impression on me. His stats don’t necessarily look amazing, but watching him on the field I can say that he’s much better than the stats.
As a pass rusher, he works better on the interior. I don’t have the numbers to back me up, but when he was inside, it seemed to me that Tanoh used his speed and strength to dominate guards inside. He’s not the best at getting around the edge, but when asked to work inside and contain a pocket, he’s so much better. Tanoh mainly relied on power and some inside bend moves, but overall, as a pass rusher, I was happy.
As a run defender, he slowly got better. He did a really nice job against sweep and pitch plays. As a run defender he maybe had his best game against San Francisco, stopping many of those sweeps. Tanoh has to get better at setting the edge and always being physical, but he’s already getting better. Given more time he could seriously turn into a valuable asset as a run defender.
For improvement, I think he just needs to continue his current stage of development. He has to work on setting a better edge, some more moves as a pass rusher at defensive end, and his play recognition. Still, his IQ and ability to play inside-out is super valuable. If he wants to take a contract extension for a fair deal, I’m all for it.
Overall, I’m super excited for Tanoh in 2020. I think that especially in a contract year, he’s going to take massive steps forward. He’s already taken massive steps since last year and working with this coaching staff again will only help. Don’t be surprised if Tanoh gets around 7-8 sacks next year.
Status: Keep, Offer 3 yr, 18 million dollar extension
Stats: 10 of 19 games, 5.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, 28 pressures, 32 tackles (23 solo), 6 TFLs, 1 forced fumble, 0 recovered. Ran at 13 times, gave up 47 yards (3.6 yards per carry).
Ogbah was having a great season before he got hurt. He was on pace for over 10 sacks and 20 QB hits, the most in his career. In a contract year Ogbah was seriously pushing to be a guy that got a massive deal in free agency. Unfortunately, Ogbah tore his pec in the Tennessee game and wasn’t able to help us in the postseason.
As a pass rusher, Ogbah was flat out fantastic at points. He still relied on his massive power, but he developed a really nice push/pull move he liked to use. He needs to work on his change-up moves and speed moves still, but Ogbah doesn’t have much to improve on. Outside of Clark and Jones, he was our 3rd best pass rusher.
As a run defender, the stats don’t tell everything. Sure, 3.6 yards is really good, but he definitely struggled at times as a run defender on the edge. He sometimes lost at the edge, getting mauled off the ball. Part of that was just not being comfortable in the scheme, but he’ll want to get better there. For improvement, like I said, he needs more change-up moves and needs to set a better edge, but it’s not much. Staying healthy and continuing to work will be huge.
I’m doing nearly whatever it takes to bring back Ogbah. We haven’t seen the best of him yet. With him, Clark, Tanoh, and potentially Jones, that’s a formidable front 4 on passing downs. Ogbah provides that extra presence, making inept tackles pay. I’m trying to keep him at a mid-tier defensive end salary.
Status: Re-sign for 3 year, 20 million dollar deal
Stats: 7 of 19 games, 0 sacks, 1 QB hits, 6 pressures, 8 tackles (4 solo), 1 TFLs, 0 forced fumble, 0 recovered. Ran at 5 times, gave up 17 yards (3.4 yards per carry).
I’ll be brief here, but I liked Harris. As a run defender he showed some really impressive strength stacking the edge. As a pass rusher he didn’t really provide anything, but he’s really young. He may get better.
Given our other depth on the roster, I don’t really see an avenue for Demone Harris to come back. I think he should be in camp and compete with Breeland Speaks, and the winner of that will get the 5th defensive end spot.
Status: Outside looking in, must beat Speaks
Stats: 5 of 19 games, 1 sacks, 4 QB hits, 12 pressures, 7 tackles (1 solo), 1 TFLs, 0 forced fumble, 0 recovered. Ran at 5 times, gave up 36 yards (7.2 yards per carry).
I’ll also keep it brief here, but I really liked Suggs in Kansas City. He was still a really good pass rusher and he set a solid edge. His stats weren’t great, but on tape he was solid. It’s not that I’d be upset bringing Suggs back, but I doubt Suggs wants to finish his career in Kansas City. If he wants to stay, I’d easily replace Alex Okafor for Suggs. I doubt he wants to finish here though. Thanks Terrell, you earned the ring.
Status: Let him walk, unless he wants to stay
Speaks didn’t play, so I can’t give any evaluation of him. He needs to cut weight, and work on his presence on the inside. He’s fighting with Harris for the final defensive line spot in 2020, and if he doesn’t show up in shape and improve I’m perfectly content cutting Speaks. I hope he proves me wrong, just like Tanoh did.
Status: Favorite vs Harris, must win spot though
Outlook for next year: Clark, Okafor, Ogbah, Tanoh, Speaks/Harris