It’s time for Dallas Clark hipsters to come back to their guy.
The owners who, in late 2007 and throughout 2008, latched onto the tight end running seam routes for Peyton Manning’s well-oiled Colts machine and watched him catch 100 passes for 1,100 yards in 2009, should consider hooking up with the old man one more time – this Sunday in an irresistible matchup with the Denver Broncos.
You loved Clark way before it was cool to like Clark – before he went mainstream and ruined everything. Well, he’s uncool again. And he’s on your waiver wire.
Clark’s snaps, opportunity, and production are climbing just as the Bucs take on a Broncos team that has proven spectacularly bad at keeping tight ends in check. Even Tony Moeaki, with Brady Quinn flinging him the pigskin, managed 40 yards against Denver’s linebackers (and sometimes, their safeties), who don’t seem all that interested in pass coverage.
Don’t be fooled by their past two games. The Broncos, between Weeks 6-10, allowed an average of almost 16 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, getting gouged by Greg Olsen — far from an elite talent — for 110 yards and two scores along the way. While Champ Bailey has essentially cordoned off one side of the field with police tape and press coverage, the rest of the Broncos’ secondary has done a decent job limiting teams’ second receivers.
This has left many teams with their tight ends in single coverage with Denver safeties they can outmuscle or linebackers they can outrun. Clark isn’t the biggest or strongest guy, but he’s earned Josh Freeman’s trust over the past month, and Freeman has been more than willing to feed the ball to his tight end in close quarters.
Clark caught all four of his Week 12 targets against the Falcons for 65 yards, his third straight contest with six or more fake football points. The week before, against Carolina, Clark was targeted an astounding 11 times, finishing with 58 yards and a thrilling overtime touchdown grab.
One concerning stat here: Clark, after getting 50 snaps in Week 11, finished last week with 25. Still, he worked his way into Tampa’s base offense much more often than he did early in the season, when he seemed more a relic than a real part of a burgeoning offense.
I think it’s safe to expect this Broncos-Bucs showdown to be a high scoring one, and with lots of pigskin tossing against truly awful Denver tight end pass coverage, Clark could have another 50-70 yard game, with perhaps a score or – dare I say – two.
Dallas Clark hipsters: Welcome back.