What Ravens can expect from Dallas Clark
August, 11, 2013
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com
Does the addition of Dallas Clark show the Baltimore Ravens are desperate at tight end? Yes. Are the Ravens now second-guessing themselves for not holding on to wide receiver Anquan Boldin? Absolutely.
That being said, the Ravens improved themselves at tight end by bringing in Clark rather than not making any move at all. The Ravens are under no illusion that this is the Clark from 2009, when he caught 100 passes and scored 10 touchdowns. But look at the Ravens' current situation at tight end: Dennis Pitta is out for the season with a dislocated hip and Ed Dickson is currently sidelined with a slight hamstring tear.
The Ravens had to do something and the recent signing of Visanthe Schiancoe, who hasn't had a reception since Dec. 11, 2011, wasn't going to be the answer in the passing game. I wrote two weeks ago that I was surprised that the Ravens didn't make a move for Clark. The hope is Dickson will be ready for the season opener, but Clark is an experienced insurance policy if Dickson can't play.
The knock on 34-year-old Clark is that he has lost his speed. His 9.3 yards per catch last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a career low. The Ravens, though, don't need Clark to stretch defenses down the seam. That is going to be Dickson's role.
The Ravens are looking for a proven pass-catcher who can run those crossing routes and pick up first downs, which is a major void without Boldin and Pitta. Baltimore took a step in the right direction when it signed slot receiver Brandon Stokley early Sunday, and Joe Flacco now has another dependable target over the middle. Clark had two drops last season, and only three other tight ends with at last 40 catches had fewer (Benjamin Watson, Jacob Tamme and Anthony Fasano).
"He can play in early downs," coach John Harbaugh told reporters Sunday. "He’s a great seam and seven-route runner, but he’s also a great stop-option, crossing-route guy. That’s the type of routes that move the chains. He’s got a great catch radius. Those are the things that Dennis [Pitta] excels at, so those are the things that he excels at.”
If the Ravens can get 40 receptions and 20 first downs out of Clark, this will go down as a productive move. The demise of Clark may be a little exaggerated, too. He caught 47 passes last season, but he got better as the season progressed. He had 27 receptions in a six-game stretch in November and December.
Before training camp started, the Ravens probably envisioned Pitta being like Clark from a few years ago, using him more as a slot receiver than a traditional tight end. Now, the Ravens are calling on Clark because Pitta is done for the season. It's not an ideal situation. But the Ravens are doing the best they can in patching up the holes in the passing attack.