A largely unsung hero on the Ravens this year is safety Chuck Clark, who, finally, has started to get a bit more recognition (he was at the mic for a press conference earlier this week, so that’s something). He reminds this fan of another player who’s been an unsung hero for years, safety/linebacker/special teamer Anthony Levine, or “Co Cap.”
Levine has been a massively underappreciated player on the Ravens, as he fills a number of roles and – though the statistics won’t jump out – has become a key cog in the Baltimore defense. We’ve heard the story about special teamers on Ravens teams. If you do well in that area, your snaps in other areas of the game will increase. That’s been the case for Levine, who came to Baltimore after two seasons on the Packers’ practice squad as a potential special teams specialist. That’s exactly what he became, and he’s been on the field for an average of 75% of the Ravens’ special teams plays since his first full season with the team in 2013.
While that’s all well and good, special teams specialists can be replaced. In 2017, however, Levine made himself indispensable by stepping into a defensive role on 24% of snaps. Here, Levine often played a sort of hybrid role between linebacker and safety (a “Dime” back, in older football terminology), something that’s become a major part of the Ravens defensive unit. That year, at the age of 30, Levine snagged his first career interception and made himself into a leader on the team. While he’s maintained a huge importance to the special teams unit since seeing more defensive snaps, his overall importance is what’s likely kept him on the team. Each year, his role has seemed to expand and his leadership has continued to pay dividends.
Coming in as a rookie out of Virginia Tech in 2017, Clark has seen a similar sort of progression. His first year, he was almost solely a special teams contributor, tallying 354 snaps (75%) in that area to only 59 (5%) on defense. When Baltimore drafted Clark, I specifically remember Daniel Jeremiah – a former Ravens scout – saying that he was Ozzie Newsome’s prototypical special teams selection, and that proved true. Clark has excelled in that role since entering the league, as he’s a sure tackler and has the strength to shed blocks. As the course typically goes, Clark’s success in that area led to an uptick in time on defense in 2018.
That year, Clark played 24% of snaps on defense while remaining a key special teamer, and actually made two starts toward the back-end of the season. Similar to Levine, the increase in snaps at safety led to his first career interception, an impressive pick of Patrick Mahomes in Clark’s second career start. This year, after the season-ending injury to strong safety Tony Jefferson, Clark has stepped in not only as a full-time starter, but as the main communicator of the defense and the holder of the important “green dot” that allows communication with the sideline. Thus far, Clark’s defensive snaps have risen to 63%, and that looks poised to rise.
Additionally, with Brandon Carr making appearances at the traditional strong safety position, Clark has moved into a hybrid role similar to the one Levine plays. This is a significant development for the team, as Levine is in the last year of his deal. While Baltimore’s dedication to special teams may not mean that they’re willing to let him walk in 2020 free agency, barring a somewhat surprising retirement, I do think the team will look to put Clark in a more commanding role both in that area and on defense.
Even if the Ravens pursue a more dynamic strong safety and prefer Clark in a hybrid linebacker/Dime role, his profile is so similar to that of Levine that he may be the next “Co Cap” that solidifies two units of Baltimore’s team for years.