Defensive line coach
Initial comments ...
Lewis: "As you sit there and go through each round and you watch the players come off the board, there's a lot of good, big talented guys. Will Clarke has the dimensions of a guy that fits that bill for us, no doubt about it. We really feel that his future is ahead of him to continue to grow into his body, to mature, get stronger and continue to play with the speed and athleticism that he's played with at West Virginia. I'm really excited about him and adding him to the mix here with the rest of our defensive line group. We're really fortunate. He's a young guy, a grinder, a kid from Pittsburgh, Pa., and we're really excited about him."
Some people have compared him to Michael Johnson with the height. Are there some comparisons there?
Lewis: "I think there are some comparisons, but let's compare him in two or three seasons, which will be the biggest thing and the challenge for him. Michael grew into that and did a nice job here, which is what we want. We want to continue to grow great players, and we've been fortunate enough to do that with the guys we've had. He comes in and fits the bill along with Margus (Hunt), who we drafted a year ago, Carlos (Dunlap), Wallace Gilberry, and Robert Geathers, who comes back, and Sam Montgomery, who we signed this offseason. We've got a group of ends now with some length, and some ability, so we're all excited about that."
One of the things about him is he batted a lot of passes in college. How will that translate?
Lewis: "I think that's an innate ability with the timing of it. You've got to get some push, and you've got to be around the quarterback to do that. We're going to coach William hard. He'll make this football team better with his physical attributes."
Did he excel versus the run, rushing the passer ...
Lewis: "He's been a pretty consistent player throughout. He got an opportunity to play and kind of shined in the postseason games. You can kind of see a guy grow into himself when he gets that opportunity. He can really begin to focus, he gets coached by different people, he can really focus on what it takes to be successful to be a contributing and productive defensive end here at the NFL level."
Paul, what do you like about Clarke?
Guenther: "In the draft, you can never get enough rushers and you can never get enough cover guys, and we've addressed both of those areas here early. William is a prototype defensive end for us—6-6, 271—and really when you look at his frame, Jay (Hayes) and I studied him throughout the combine, and he can put weight on. He could be 290 in a month. He's just got the frame to put weight on.
"Again, he's a prototype for what we're looking for in a defensive end. There's not many of those guys in the draft that you can say are like him. We're really happy to have him. He's our kind of guy. Now in the draft we got two guys that are the kind of guys we're looking for: hard-working, disciplined, they love the game of football. We're excited to have them both."
There's been a lot of Michael Johnson comparisons ...
Hayes: "Well the comparison that they're both tall, long guys, that is true. As high school players they were basketball players as well as football players. William's father was a hell of basketball player back in Pittsburgh where I grew up. He's a couple of years older than me, went to Fifth Avenue and was on a state championship team. A real good friend of mine that I ended up playing football with in the USFL was Sam Clancy and he played with William's father at Fifth Avenue.
"I know the family and like Paul said, the guy fits into the type of guys we have. We have long, tall athletic players, and he is definitely one of those guys. We're very excited to bring him in and have him learn from some really good players and some experienced players in Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry and Robert Geathers, guys that have played a lot of football here and done very, very well for us. That's going to be a great opportunity for him to be with those guys, and get in the mix with those guys, and get in the rotation as it goes and see what happens."
Is it important to have a personal connection with a player in order to draft him?
Hayes: "It was something that was kind of a coincidence, really. I knew the kid's history when it comes to that. You guys all know there's a couple southwestern Pennsylvania guys running around this building. To us, that's something, that you know football's important to people from back there. That's big."
What were you looking for during Clarke's pre-draft visit here?
Guenther: "Well you're allowed to have so many guys visit the building here. So as we got on along with Will and the study of Will, he was a guy that really attracted us. So we kind of short-listed some guys and said, 'Hey, these are the guys we've got to know a little bit more about.' Because if it comes time like it did 10 minutes ago, we've got to feel really, really good about it. We felt really good about the player on film. We felt really good about the player at the combine. Bringing him in here and spending a couple days with him, getting him on board, getting him around our guys, coaches and around the building just to get the know the person a little bit better, I thought really helped us. And that to me, that visit really sold me on the kind of guy we're looking for around here. You knew right away; same thing with (Darqueze) Dennard. These two guys are just rock solid guys. We couldn't be more happier."
Hayes: "Definitely. He's the type of guy that'll fit in well. He's going to work hard, and has talent. He has potential to keep getting better. I think that's what Paul wants in the front and (what) we've done here over the last six years. He should be able to hopefully get into the rotation and help us that way."
What is it about height at defensive end?
Hayes: "Like John Madden always says, 'If there's a tie between a little guy and a big guy, take the big guy.'"
Guenther: "Yeah I think with William's reach, he's almost got 35-inch arms. He's a long guy. Again, he's going to develop into a bigger bodied guy. We felt like with his frame, he could add weight. Like I said, we like long pass rushers, athletic guys. It's been proven in the NFL over the last five, 10 years that you can never have enough rushers. If we're going to err on defense between a rush guy and something else, we want more of those guys. Because we love to roll them in, keep them fresh. In the NFL these days, as much of a passing league it's been, again, you can never have enough of those kind of guys."
He was proficient of knocking passes down. Does he have that skill more than most?
Guenther: "Yeah you can see his length. Now he played some inside, too, at West Virginia, and outside, so he's versatile and he'll be versatile for us. We'll play at him at both spots. He's very technique-sound. His hands are usually always in the right place. He's got long leverage. He has an innate ability to do those type of things. When you're disrupting the ball at this level, you couldn't ask for more. There's been a lot of situations last year in our season where there might have been a guy wide open and one of our ends batted a ball down and it saved our butt. So having long guys like that, especially against little quarterbacks in our division now (laughs), we need guys to get their hands up in the air."
Hayes: "Like Paul said, this guy played in a three-man line. He was inside playing three-technique and he's not afraid to mix it up. I've seen him all over the board as a defensive lineman. That's what grew me to him. When I put my list together I said, 'Paul, we need to look at this guy. He's got some things that we like.' When you see him play and look at his coaching tape and those type of things, like I said, you'll see him in a two-technique, a three-technique. He'll play four-technique; he'll play five-technique. He's in there knocking people back, playing with great pad level and base, the types of things we're looking for. Even though he is a 6-foot-6 man, he will play with good pad level and not get knocked back and locked out and be able to get off blocks and those types of things. That's what it's all about when you're playing in the trenches."