Once regarded as one of the best tight ends in the NFL, the past two seasons have not been kind to Dallas Clark.
This season he will get a new start in Tampa and the question that needs to be answered is, will he be relevant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Things were looking good for Clark heading into 2010 as he was coming off his first 1,000-yard receiving season in the NFL.
However, a wrist injury/surgery would limit Clark to six games. In those six games Clark would have just 37 receptions, 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Things were not much better in 2011, having to play for the first time without Peyton Manning while again dealing with injuries. Clark played in just 11 games, tallying 325 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Looking forward to 2012, there are two factors working against Clark in Tampa Bay.
First is his past injuries. As mentioned previously, Clark missed parts of the last two seasons because of injuries limiting him to just 17 games in the past two seasons. Additionally, Clark has lasted for a complete season just once in nine years. One has to wonder if Clark will have the stamina to play a full 16-game season.
A second factor working against Clark is the fact that he is playing for a new team for the first time since 2003. Going to Tampa Bay means that Clark will have to adjust to playing home games outdoors in the Florida heat, while interacting with new teammates, most notably quarterback Josh Freeman. If it takes time for Freeman and Clark to get on the same page, it could further weaken Clark’s stat line.
However, there are also three factors working in Clark’s favor related to coming to Tampa Bay.
First is the fact that Clark will not be the only new kid on the block this season. Tampa Bay will have lots of new faces including the coaching staff, players selected in this year’s Draft, and players like Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson. Additionally, since there is a new coaching staff, Clark will be on a level playing field when it comes to learning a new playbook.
A second factor working in Clark’s favor is the lack of talent at the receiver position for Tampa Bay. In 2011, Tampa Bay’s receiving crew managed just 17 touchdowns, while ranking 17th in the league in total receiving yards. If Clark can adequately replace Kellen Winslow as a go-to target for Freeman, his stats could see a nice boost.
A third factor working in Clark’s favor is his size. Tight ends have dual duties in the NFL as both receivers and blockers. Clark is listed as 6-foot-3 inches, and 252 pounds, which could help him have success even if his stat line has flat-lined.
In the end only time will tell what kind of impact Clark will make in Tampa Bay. He could thrive with a new team and a new quarterback, or prior injuries and age could prove too much for him to overcome.