Outside linebacker Frank Clark has plenty of experience with gritty AFC West battles. Clark joins the Broncos after four prolific seasons — and four division titles — with the Chiefs.
With Denver preparing for a season-opening division matchup against the Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High, Clark knows just how important the game will be to the Broncos' ultimate goals.
"I feel like divisional opponents are the most important games in the NFL, obviously," Clark said after Thursday's practice. "If you win the division, you have a chance to go and win your conference. Being here, the goal is always to win the AFC West, whether I was in KC or here. The goal is to win the AFC West. If we do that, we are able to control our own destiny."
Sunday will be Clark's 10th time facing the Raiders. In those games, Clark has recorded 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, but he's focusing more on preparation than his track record against Las Vegas.
"At the end of the day, your preparation matters," Clark said. "You've got to go into each week [like] it's a new week. You can't go in there thinking about the stats you had the game before, stats you had the year before or just the stats you had against that same team. You've got to go into that week preparing with your mind on one thing and that's winning the football game and your individual matchup."
Clark spoke highly of his new defensive teammates, from the trenches back to the secondary. While he called cornerback Pat Surtain II and safety Justin Simmons the best players in the league at their respective positions and commended the Broncos' veterans, he gave some of his highest praise to two of the up-and-coming players in the outside linebackers group, Nik Bonitto and Jonathon Cooper.
"Man, it's ... hats off [to them]," When you talk about two players — especially that I've been around since I've been in the league — and you talk about young guys, those are two of the best young guys I've ever seen, honestly. I've been around a lot of great guys, a lot of great teams and those are two guys, Bonitto and [Cooper]. … You harp on coaches wanting guys who can play all three downs, and I definitely believe Nik and 'Coop' are guys who can do that."
Clark is looking forward to a major challenge against a talented Raiders offense, but he also expects greatness out of his teammates — for a multitude of reasons.
"Any time [inside linebacker] Alex Singleton's hair grows a little bit longer, you know he's gonna play some great football," Clark said. "Any man getting over 140, 150 tackles a year, I can trust him [and] I want him on my team."