One of the more stupid criticisms of Dallas Clark is that all he does is catch the ball.
Forget for a second that catching the ball is what big name tight ends are, you know, paid to do. Blocking tight ends are a dime a dozen, which is why none of them make considerable money. Guys like Brody Eldridge are nice to have, but playmakers like Clark and Antonio Gates make big bucks because they don't just catch the football. They catch the football frequently, and usually they do so while standing in the endzone.
An even better tight end is one who can catch and block, and for the pathetically dumb out there who bark about Dallas Clark 'only catching the ball,' their backhanded compliment just swung around and slapped them in the face. Dallas Clark catches the ball, and he's a pretty damn good blocker too.
According to Pro Football Focus, from 2008-2010, Clark was the fourth best pass blocking tight end in the NFL. In 224 pass plays that Clark blocked on, he allowed only 11 pressures. That, my friends, is impressive.
Now, for PFF, they attribute Clark's proficient numbers to Peyton Manning more than Clark's skill as a blocker.
It is a surprise, however, to see two pass catching tight ends, Dallas Clark and Dante Rosario, in the top five. We know (largely) why Clark features so highly and that has something to do with Peyton Manning’s ability to avoid giving pressure a chance to influence him.
Now, I'm going to take issue with this because PFF's system was pretty damning towards Mike Pollak and Charlie Johnson. If they didn't grade well from 2008-2011, but Clark did protecting the same guy (Manning), I don't think that should take away from Clark. Pollak and Johnson failed at their jobs for various reasons. Clark didn't.
Oh, and big surprise here (snark): Gijon Robinson was rated as one of the worst pass blocking TEs in football from 2008-2010.
Now, to place this in its proper context, it's not like Clark is out there going one-on-one with an edge rusher. But, based on these numbers (which are subjective, but useful in this case), when Dallas Clark was asked to impede a rusher, he more than held his own. This is consistent with what I've watched over the years. Clark can be a very effective blocker in pass protection, and is very good when the team runs out of a three-wide set. Dallas is not a good in-block blocker, or H-Back style tight end. Guys like Eldridge are more that style, but Eldridge doesn't have Clark's big play ability down the field.
In fact, other than Pierre Garcon, no one gets down the field and makes more plays vertically than Dallas Clark. When he went down in 2010 with a wrist injury against the Redskins, so did the Colts offense. It was never the same after he left.
Reports this off-season tell us Clark is healthy and ready to play. Welcome news indeed for the Colts offense.