Welcome to another rambling of Devil's Take. Today, we tackle the impact of the loss of Dallas Clark and how the Colts will be just fine without him. Yes, you read that right, just fine without him. I'd been contemplating writing something like this, and with a comment from Chad72, I decided I would go ahead....
Dallas Clark, the league's best receiving tight end in the game, was placed on injured reserve this past week. It was truly a disheartening thing to hear and read. Clark, injured his wrist in the game against the Redskins and will require season ending surgery to repair the damage.
Clark, who was only the 2nd TE in the history of the NFL to record 100 catches in a single season, set a variety of Colts records in the past season and a half, including most catches in a season, yards, and broke the Colts all-time QB to TE TD catches.
Clark 2009 - 100 catches, 1106 yards, 10 TD's, almost 70 yards per game avg., accounting for 59 1st downs
Clark 2010 - 37 catches, 347 yards, 3 TD's, almost 58 yards per game avg., accounting for 21 1st downs
Now, you read that, and you go, "How can the Colts possibly be okay without this guy?"
Well to start, let's rewind through time to revisit some games where Dallas Clark was either injured during or out due to injury. Now I only use these two games because in both cases, the Colts were suffering extensive injuries or playing new players in place of injured ones.
2009 Colts at Ravens - Clark was targeted 1 time for a 3 yard TD pass very early in the 1st quarter. He was never thrown to or targeted again in the game. I'm pretty sure he went out with an injury on a hit later in the game. In comes Tom Santi to the tune of 6 catches, 80 yards, and he was leveled on a double hit at the 1 yard line and fumbled. The Ravens actually had no answer for Santi in that game.
- 2007 Colts at Chargers - We all remember this game, the infamous 6 INT game for Manning. The Colts had Reggie Wayne and the nobodies receiving the ball. I actually think I saw the Waterboy catching balls on the field during the game. Reggie Wayne had a monster game to the tune of 10 catches - 140 yards, 1TD. Bryan Fletcher, the starting TE in place of Clark, had 8 catches, 55 yards, and a 2pt conversion. Ben Utecht, our other TE, added an additional 3 catches for 30 yards. I strongly want to point out that the Colts #2 and #3 WR's were Aaron Fivehead and Craphonso Thorpe. They combined for a 9 catch - 80 yard effort as well.
In the case of the Chargers game, the Colts were missing Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez, and Marvin Harrison on offense alone. Despite that, Peyton Manning threw for 328 yards, 2 TDs, 6 INTs. The Colts lost by 2pts on a missed field goal attempt by Vinatieri. This was against arguably one of the best teams in the league.
Think about that for just a second: Peyton Manning lost a game by 2 pts despite throwing 6 INTs, and missing 2 of his top 3 receiving targets. Think some more: the 4 other top receivers for the night, wouldn't even make our practice squad right now because of the talent on our team.
Lastly, it took 2 special teams TD's for the Chargers to even be in the game....let alone win it...
So now that I've shown you a few examples of where other guys have stepped up, I want to show you why this team will be just fine without Clark.
- Austin Collie - By far and away, the best draft pick for this team since Dwight Freeney. Yes, he's that freaking good. It is indeed unfortunate that we will miss him for a few weeks, but outside of Houston, we have a decent enough schedule that missing him will be minimal for those games. Still, this kid would be a starter for 2/3's of this league, and he's our THIRD WR.
- Brody Eldridge - This guy defines old school football. In college, he played just about every position on the offensive line, including center. Your starting TE played center for one of the premier teams in college football. That is ridonkulous. The guy is a baller, and really reminds me of a raw Dallas Clark. Given the opportunity, he's going to beat someone really bad....This was the same kid who took a brutal shot by 2 defenders in the Jacksonville game and still almost held on to a TD catch.
- Blair White - Just when the Colts create Stokely 2.0 (Collie), along comes a winning lottery ticket in Blair White. The kid has hands made out of velcro, throw it to him, he'll catch it. Fantastic work ethic, fearless, and the kid wasn't even drafted by a single team. A chip on the shoulder, the best QB in football, and the best passing offense in the league....yeah, you can say I'm excited..
Anthony Gonzalez - Yes, the knock on him the past season and a half has been injuries. What Collie and White are now for the Colts, Gonzo was for his first 2 seasons in the league. When he was brought into the league, this guy had to fill in for an injured Marvin "Silent Assassin" Harrison. Seriously, the only way that gets into being a worse situation is being the guy brought into replace Manning. Despite that, the kid went across the middle and made sure to hit a few people on the way across. I'd also like to point out that teams had matchup problems with him in the slot because of his similarities to Clark. Tall, great hands, and good speed. So even if he is lined up as a WR, teams will struggle to cover him. God forbid we go 4 wide with Collie.
Pierre Garcon - The knock on him is he drops balls, despite him making some of the most ridonkulous, stupid, no the f*ck he didn't catches in the league the last year and a half. The kid is a burner, something the Colts have not had in a few years since Wayne became the #1 WR. Despite his inconsistencies, he's consistently targeted by Darth Manning on the deep route. Oh, he isn't the reason why the Colts lead the league in dropped passes either. That pass against the Redskins is hands down one of the best catches I've seen in years...
- Reggie Wayne - Oh yeah, that guy. Yanno, only the 2nd best WR in the history of the Colts, one of the top 5 best WR's in the league.
- ***BONUS*** - The Offensive Line - Yeah, this may be a stretch, but over the last 2 games, the Colts rushing attack has played 2 of the better defenses in total defense (Chiefs 7th, Redskins 10th) and posted up 270 yards rushing. I realize the total defense bit is a misnomer, but the point is that the Colts ground game has reappeared in a big way over the last 2 games. If the ground game continues to re-emerge, it could make the Colts "Stampede" offense down right lethal to the Girl Scout defense that the Texans employ right now.
It's easy to get down right depressed about the loss of Clark, the injuries to Addai and Collie, and of course the play of the defense over the first part of the year. But guess what, I think that's just bullshit.
The Colts lost to a division rival on the road who has all year to prep, scheme, and plan for them. The defense played like crap, essentially quitting in the 4th quarter. Despite that, the Colts could have used a football throwing machine and caught passes as Manning carved the Texans defense up like a hot knife through butter. They got outplayed, plain and simple.
This time around, the Colts have a few things in their favor....
- Anger: The Colts are going to be looking for payback, in the form of respect and punishment. The Texans and some of their fans got a bit cocky for finally winning "convincingly" over the Colts in 17 games of trying. The buzz for the last 2 seasons has been the Texans supplanting the Colts. I can tell you I'd be chomping at the bit to get on the field.
- Next Man Up: Unlike the Chargers game from a few years ago, our backups at most of our WR/TE positions could be starters for other teams in this league. Add to that, these guys are proven quality players, not gutter trash.
- Something to prove: For some of these guys (Gonzo, O-Line, Eldridge) it's a time for them to show up and really make a statement to both their team and themselves as to why they are such an important part of this team. Look for the O-line to be dominant, look for Gonzo to play like the Terminator, and look for Eldridge to lead the charge on runs by the Hart monster.
I could spend all day debating this with you, but the point that I'm making is very simple. The Colts will not self destruct with the loss of Clark. You can't replace a guy like that easily, but the Colts are one of the very few teams who can do it, and do it in a way that you would not know the guy was out. Given the choice, I want Clark on the field, but this is a team who can still finish 12-4 missing Marvin Harrison for most of the year.