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Give Chuck Clark his flowers

The trusted veteran is playing the best football of his career

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Since becoming a starting safety for the Ravens in 2019, Chuck Clark has been a steady force on the defensive side of the ball.

Despite being a full-time starter on one of the better defenses — and teams — in the NFL, Clark has rarely earned much national recognition. His lack of flamboyance on and off the field is likely a reason why. The fifth-year veteran has never been the flashiest or ostentatious player. Instead, he’s the definition of professional and workman like.

Clark has been a good player for some time now, but has never entered the upper echelon of safeties and/or defensive backs in the league. His play through Week 4 of the 2021 regular season screams one thing: it’s time to change this narrative.

The wily veteran has always made his mark by doing the little things, many of which don’t show up in the box score: relaying play calls on defense, reading offenses before the snap, being in the right place at the right time, etc. He’s still executing these nuances at a high level so far this season, but he’s taken his game to a new level.

Clark’s consistency and reliability have been magnified this year. In a four-game stretch where the Ravens’ defense has been undermanned and shuffling through players, Clark’s ability to stay on the field and play sound, technical football has never been more important.

In the secondary alone, Marcus Peters won’t suit up this year, Chris Westry was placed on injured reserve after Week 1, Jimmy Smith missed the first two games and DeShon Elliott has been in-and-out of the lineup. Even starting cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett, who have played all four games, have been on the injury report at times.

Clark has again played 100% of snaps through four games and has truly done a little of just about everything for the Ravens.

Regardless of who he’s playing alongside in the defensive backfield, Clark has performed at an extremely high level. His coverage ability has been instrumental against some of the four of the league’s best tight ends in Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. His surefire tackling in the open field has been a godsend for the Ravens defense, which has by and large been one of the worst tackling units in the NFL this season.

He’s filled the stat sheet with 24 combined tackles — 18 of which were solo — two tackles for loss, one sack and a quarterback hit. He had three pass defenses alone in Week 1 against the Raiders and had a forced fumble reversed against the Lions in Week 3. His play has earned him a PFF grade of 76.3, which ranks Top 5 among all qualified safeties.

Clark may not be the elite-level athlete or turnover-forcing machine that some other defensive backs are in the NFL. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a few other safeties who are as consistent and dependable as him.

Take a second to imagine where the Ravens defense, and team as a whole for that matter, would be without him this season. The answer? Almost certainly in a much worse place. The Ravens have had their share of challenges and ups-and-downs already. They’ve managed to weather an early storm that could have derailed most teams. Players like Clark are a big reason why.

Clark may always underappreciated, underrated and deserving of more recognition on a national level. But his play so far this year is making clear what Ravens’ fans have known for quite some time now . . .

He is a darn good football player, and it’s time that everyone starts taking notice.