After years of neglect, The New York Jets are finally addressing the offensive line. It’s time to meet their latest project, Cameron Clark.
With the 129th selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select… Cameron Clark, offensive lineman, Charlotte. When Joe Douglas took over as the Jets’ general manager he said he wanted to build an offensive line pipeline. He’s off to a pretty good start.
Douglas has added six new offensive linemen this offseason, four interior offensive linemen and two tackles. That includes the two offensive linemen he took in this year’s draft.
In just one year, Joe Douglas has spent more top-150 picks on offensive linemen then Mike Maccagnan spent in his entire tenure. That’s how the Jets ended up with one of the worst offensive lines in franchise history in 2019.
Cameron Clark isn’t going to come in and be a day one starter like Mekhi Becton. Clark is a developmental prospect who will likely move from tackle to guard in the NFL.
Clark has a lot of the technical sides of the game down, but he’ll need to improve physically to last in the NFL. This selection is a pick for 2021 and beyond. If it works out, it’ll mean Douglas walked out of the draft with two starting offensive linemen. If it doesn’t, at least Joe Douglas will have added a quality depth piece.
Clark was a two-star prospect coming out of high school. He was the 242nd ranked offensive lineman and 2,490th best overall prospect. It’s safe to say that nothing much was expected him when he arrived on campus at Charlotte.
Predictably, Clark was redshirted his true freshman season. He played more in his freshman year, appearing in all 12 games, though he only started two of them.
Clark came back in his sophomore year and wreaked havoc. He only started in eight of the 12 games they played, all at left tackle, but he was a game-changer. Clark was such an important player to Charlotte’s offense that the team named him their offensive MVP for the season.
In his junior year, he was named the team’s starting left tackle and started all 12 games. He followed that up with a strong senior season where he started 13 games and was named First-Team All-Conference USA.
Clark also set the record for games played at Charlotte with 49.
Clark isn’t a great athlete. His 5.29 40-time was one of the worst among offensive linemen, his 25-inch vertical is the second-worst in the class, and his 101-inch vertical was bottom-10.
The one thing that Clark does have is his strength. He put up 26 bench reps at the combine, which is three more than Becton put up.
The lack of natural athleticism and the abundance of strength is why Clark will likely be moving to guard at the NFL level. He won’t be asked to take on speed rusher, nor will his footwork be challenged.
His natural strength will be put to the test against interior defenders where he should excel. However, he’ll also need to work on his quickness as he’ll be asked to pull as a guard.
It’s impossible to pinpoint Clark’s quickness and agility as he skipped the three-cone and shuttle drills, but it’s safe to say neither is excellent.
For Clark to succeed at the next level, he’ll need to continue to build up his strength to develop his reputation as a mauler.
Clark’s strengths are simple, he’s strong and he’s most of the way there on technique. That alone makes him one of the best developmental prospects in the class.
In the run game, Clark is an absolute mauler. Like Becton, he’s a mean and nasty finisher. He loves to see people put down and stay down in the run game. He led the way blocking for the majority of rush plays for Charlotte.
He’s also got the quick-twitch upper body speed to play inside. He should be able to get his hands up and get leverage with his long arms against interior rushers. If he can do that, his strength should take over and allow him to move men off the line of scrimmage.
He’s best suited to a man-blocking scheme where his limited athletics and excellent strength would be put to work. The issue is head coach Adam Gase runs a zone-blocking scheme, which works against Clark’s strengths. So it’ll be interesting to see what they have in mind for him.
Clark has a number of things he needs to work on before he sees an NFL field. His penalty issues top the list. Clark was a penalty machine in 2019 due to his lack of athleticism. The hope is that a move to guard will mitigate those issues and lead to fewer penalties.
Pass blocking is another big weakness for the developmental prospect. His feet are slow and he doesn’t anticipate rush lanes well yet. With more reps, his awareness and football IQ will increase, which should mitigate the questions about his ability to recognize rush lanes.
However, his slow feet are a real problem. It’s one of the main reasons he’s being moved to guard. In a man-blocking scheme, his slow feet as a guard wouldn’t be a major issue. He would simply be asked to take his man and leave it at that.
The Jets run a zone-blocking scheme, which will ask a lot more from him. He’ll have to pull and block in the running game, and he’ll be asked to slide and recognize his assignment in pass blocking.
Clark is a very intriguing developmental prospect. His fit with the Jets doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t fit the mold of player that Douglas has been targeting for the Jets offensive line.