(Alex Brandon / AP)

The preseason is the time for unbridled optimism, and Ryan Clark is on board with that plan.

The longtime Steelers safety played in Pittsburgh with perennial Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu. He played for years with cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay, and in the 2008 Super Bowl win with starters Taylor and Bryant McFadden. During his first stint in Washington, Clark played with Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs,who were all top 10 overall draft picks.

Still, the veteran safety told NFL Network last week that this is the most talented secondary he has ever played with.

“Honestly, the biggest thing is talent,” Clark said, when asked why he believes Washington’s secondary will be improved. “I told the guys, obviously Troy’s a freak, you know what I mean, he’s an alien. But as far as all the pieces we have in the secondary, it’s the most talented secondary I’ve been around. It’s the most talented group of corners I’ve ever played with, and also as far as intelligence.

“Now we don’t have that one guy that’s from Mars with the long hair, but Brandon [Meriweather’s] a guy who’s been in the Pro Bowl, a guy who was a first-round pick. So I think talent-wise, we’re there, but we have to get there mentally. Everybody has to be on the same page. It can’t be about one guy making the play; it has to be about the good of the group. And I think they really have that attitude.”

Clark’s optimism, it goes without saying, extends to the entire defense.

“Oh, I think we can be a much better defense,” he told NFL Network. “Just talking to Raheem [Morris] or Coach Haslett about not giving up big plays, running to the ball, tackling. Kind of the simple things that go overlooked when you’re not stopping people on defense. And so I’ve really been working on ‘Hey look this guy was wide open, why was that? In this coverage,  how do we play this to not get beat over the top?’ I think those are some of the things that are coming together for us now.”