Is Le'Raven Clark The Future At Right Tackle?

Intro: Over the final three weeks of the 2016 season, the Colts got an extended look at rookie Le’Raven Clark. Is Clark the starter at right tackle going forward?

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INDIANAPOLIS – No Colts' rookie waited longer for their NFL introduction than Le'Raven Clark.

Inactive for 8 of the first 12 games this past season, Clark had what looked to be a glorified redshirt season through the first three months of the year.

The team's third-round pick out of Texas Tech had played a grand total of one offensive snap when December arrived.

But with a 53-man roster never allowing a player to think he's too far away being thrust into duty, Clark's season was about to take a seismic shift.

Jack Mewhort's knee injury in Week 14 sent the starting left guard to injured reserve.

Shuffling was needed again up front and that meant Clark was entering the starting lineup.

The player who wasn't ready for NFL action in August was going to make his first professional start against the league's top ranked defense.

Clark spent the better part of September-November working extensively with assistant line coach Joe Gilbert to better acclimate to the NFL.

The Colts knew that the learning curve for Clark to the NFL would take a bit longer due to him working out of a spread offense, where his hand was hardly put on the ground.

Clark passed a daunting debut assignment. He followed that up with two more starts to close out the season. Clark's rookie season ended with allowing just one hit and one sack in 201 offensive snaps, giving him a major confidence boost heading into the offseason.

"Where Le'Raven has really showed up has been being able to collapse that right side of the line, and I think it gives us options moving forward," GM Ryan Grigson said in late December. "He started 11 games at guard at Texas Tech, as well, as part of his 51 starts that were mainly at left tackle. But he's got a lot going for him, and I think he has some versatility.

"There was a point where our left side of our line was kind of our strong area where we would run towards the left, and that was where we were most comfortable 'cause that was where we had produced and got the most movement. Now we have more options, because (Ryan) Kelly's in there, he gets movement, those combos with him and the guards, we're starting to see some holes, we're starting to see that movement at the line of scrimmage. The run game, I'm very bullish on, and in Le'Raven, too, again, the way that he is able to drop his weight on that long frame is pretty unique."

What Clark showed the Colts in Weeks 15-17 was a strong possibility to enter 2017 as the team's starter at right tackle.

Joe Reitz remains under contract, but it was Clark who got the starting nod at tackle when both guys were healthy late in the year.

The Colts took notice of what Clark was able to do after not even dressing for 75 percent of the season.

Chuck Pagano singled Clark out after the win in Minnesota for adhering to the "prepare like a starter" mentality.

Anytime Frank Gore spoke about his strong finish to 2016, he mentioned Clark as someone the veteran running back was proud to see develop.

There's a good chance that Gore will be running behind Clark a lot more in 2017.

"He has his raw moments, like a lot of rookies will," Grigson said of Clark in December, "but for a tackle with a left tackle skillet, the amount of power he generates in his lower body, it's not typical for a guy that's long and as athletic as him. That's encouraging.

"You feel like he could really develop as an overall tackle from top to bottom."

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