In a year full of uncertainty, Will Clapp quickly became a hot commodity coming off the bench this past season.
With the mass replacements of players due to injuries and COVID implications, Clapp’s presence became essential to the functionality of the New Orleans Saints offense.
In the nine games he appeared in, Clapp showed his versatility along the Saints offensive line playing at multiple spots throughout the year. He accounted for 132 snaps in 2021 with those being at center, offensive tackle and tight end in the team's jumbo package, the position where he gets most of his action. This would be the same role that he has continued to make a career out of here in New Orleans.
I broke down a few examples of the important role that Clapp played last season and what might compel the team to keep him around.
On this play, the Saints come out in a 12-personnel look with Clapp playing as one the “tight ends” in this formation. The main purpose of this is to utilize a bigger body in max protection situations (taking shots down the field/vs. heavy pressure). It is also very possible that the team wasn’t confident they could block Dallas’ front effectively, due to their makeshift starting lineup for this game. Either way you put it, Clapp’s aid was needed.
You can see here that Clapp’s (64) insertion allows for three sets of double teams along the offensive line, giving Taysom Hill enough time to complete this laser to Juwan Johnson on a beautiful play-action Nod concept for 27 yards. But let's not discredit Clapp’s job here. He does a good job of not giving up the bend and forcing end Tarell Basham back inside where he gets help from his running back Mark Ingram.
The team also uses these types of looks in the Sprint Out game as well.
Below you can see how the addition of a sixth offensive lineman assists with backside and playside protection as Hill sprints out to the right.
This next clip shows Clapp (64) being utilized as that backside anchor not allowing any pressure to Hill’s blind area.
Aside from that role, the highlight of Clapp’s young career came in early January when he was elevated into a starting role at center for a week 17 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. This came about when the team announced that starter Erik McCoy would be placed on the COVID/Reserve List for that week.
Will Clapp played center today— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) December 30, 2021
It was for the most part a rough first outing, but the LSU product didn’t receive much help from his peers either, as the Saints were decimated by injuries upfront.
Clapp is scheduled to become a free agent at the start of the new league year. His size and versatility are something that the Saints value and it is what has kept him around the organization for the past four seasons. It is very possible that the team continues to view Clapp as a developmental swing player on the offensive line. If so, it is likely that team will attempt to retain him for the 2022 season. That being said, anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.