Would more jams on Clark help slow Colts?

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
12:31
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

Don’t miss Jeffri Chadiha’s large-scale feature story on Dallas Clark, just published on ESPN.com.


 
 Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI
 Dallas Clark already has 60 catches for 703 yards this season.
It told me a lot about Clark that I didn’t know.

Clark should be a huge factor in Sunday night’s game against New England at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Patriots free safety Brandon McGowan is expected to spend a lot of time tracking him -- a matchup former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said is going to be key.

“This week you have to look at Brandon McGowan versus Dallas Clark,” Harrison said during an NBC conference call. “For years you’ve seen me basically cover Dallas Clark, and when I’ve been injured it’s been a linebacker type on him. So where do you go? They went right at that mismatch.”

Earlier this season after Clark went crazy in the Colts' win in Miami, former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck (whom I work with on the radio) harped on a question about Clark’s excellent production: Why don’t defenses jam him, or other productive tight ends, more often? Wycheck always had an easier time when he didn't have to worry about not getting free releases.

I had a chance to ask Clark about that earlier this season, and here’s what he said.

“A lot of times on third down, they’ll jam me so I don’t get a free release. But D-ends, they’re not worried about me, they’re trying to get to that quarterback, they’re trying to get their sacks. Asking them to jam me, really isn’t helping them get off the ball, get an edge on that tackle. It’s kind of give and take, pick your poison.

“Do you want to have less chance of getting a sack and give up that to try to get a jam on a tight end who might not even be getting the ball? Or do you want the end to get a nice, good jump on the tackle and get some good pressure on the quarterback? So it’s a defense’s decision.”

“You always want to get clean off the line, but sometimes they get you. Sometimes you can kind of sense that they are going to do something, but sometimes they get you. You just try to get back in your route and you have to adjust the depth [to preserve the timing]. You just try to make plays.”



Interesting stuff, I thought. Will McGowan get in Clark’s face at the line or get help from a lineman or 'backer?

I do think Wycheck’s question about the infrequent contact on Clark at the line is a good one. It would seem to make sense to jam him a bit more often, mess up a play here and there and to put it in his head there could be contact arriving at any snap.

If Clark’s killing you, isn’t it worth sacrificing a little attention somewhere else?

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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