There’s a general belief that a sure-handed tight end is a backup quarterback’s best friend. In Kansas City, we’ve seen that theory in action.
Think back to the 2006 season when Damon Huard kept the Chiefs playoff hopes afloat after Trent Green exited Opening Day on a stretcher. TE Tony Gonzalez finished that game with a season-high 10 catches as Huard utilized the safe and reliable passing target early and often.
An effective pass-catching tight end can help a backup quarterback gain confidence and settle into a rhythm.
Huard went back to Gonzalez throughout the 2007 season when he made 10 starts while the team waited for Brodie Croyle to develop into the club’s starter. Once Croyle was ready to play, he chucked it up to Gonzalez whenever possible as well.
Gonzo finished the 2007 season with some of the best numbers of his career (99 catches for 1,175 yards). Noteworthy production for Gonzalez considering the Chiefs finished that season ranked 31st in total offense at 276.8 yards per game.
Enter the Chiefs opponent this Sunday where someone not named Peyton Manning will be under center for the Indianapolis Colts. Coach Todd Haley has the Chiefs preparing for both Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter until the Colts quarterback situation becomes less cloudy.
Regardless of who is taking the snaps for Indianapolis this weekend, Dallas Clark is one of those pass-catching tight ends that acts as a security blanket for quarterbacks and poses plenty of matchup issues for opposing defenses.
“He’s a tight end that really catches the ball well,” Haley said. “You have to see him for his abilities and his number one strength is just his playmaking ability in general.”
“We consider him both (a receiver and a tight end),” CB
Clark is to the 2011 Colts as Gonzalez was to the 2006-07 Chiefs. Actually, with WRs Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon, Clark has a far superior supporting cast than Gonzalez did.
“He’s got a great feel for the game,” Haley continued. “They rely on him heavily and he’s just a great competitor that can hurt you in a number of different ways and you have to account for him and a bunch of other guys. They’ve got a lot of really good players that can catch and run the ball.”
Painter received his first career start Monday night at Tampa Bay and, somewhat surprisingly, only utilized his All-Pro tight end a handful of times during a pass-happy nationally-televised performance. Clark finished with the night with a respectable three catches for 46 yards, but the majority of Painter’s targets went towards receivers.
Wayne and Garcon saw eight targets each, while WR Austin Collie received seven throws in his direction. Clark was targeted just four times as Painter completed 13 of 30 passing attempts.
Through four games, Clark owns only 13 catches for 129 yards (9.9 avg.). Slow start or not, the Chiefs expect Indianapolis to work Clark into this Sunday’s game plan - especially with the absence of Pro Bowl S
Berry often handled man-to-man coverage assignments on pass-catching tight ends last season and opponents have tried to exploit his absence throughout the first four games. Though the Chiefs have yet to square off against a Pro Bowl tight end this year, players at that position are experiencing success against the Kansas City defense.
“Yeah, I think for sure, you see some of that result is (the loss of Berry),” Haley said. “But the fact is that component is not going to change.
“We just need to continue to improve and understand how we have to play defense – each player within the scheme and the way that we’re kind of doing things now and we’ll still game plan accordingly to who we’re playing. There has been a slight adjustment in philosophy and we just have to keep getting better.”
Clark presents one of the most difficult matchup issues the Chiefs have faced since Berry was lost for the season in Week One.
Tight Ends vs. Chiefs This Season
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