Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Dallas Clark Effect


February 10, 2011

One of the nice storylines that developed during the Colts tough march to the playoffs in 2010 was the emergence of tight end Jacob Tamme. After barely smelling the field through six weeks, many fans felt he was a savior of the season’s second half.

Deeper digging into the numbers indicates, however, that Dallas Clark is still the most important player on the Colts offense (not-named-Manning).

A direct comparison of Tamme to Clark would provide a surface-level indication that Clark was fairly replaced by Tamme. In his six games, Clark averaged 6.2 receptions and 57.8 yards per game, while Tamme averaged 6.7 receptions and 63.1 yards per game through the final ten games.

It wasn’t the tight end position that was impacted.

Consider the number put up by Reggie Wayne while Clark was healthy, and after he went down:

* w/ Clark: 6 games, 45 receptions, 602 yards, 2 touchdowns
* avg w/ Clark: 7.5 receptions, 100.3 yards per game
* w/out Clark: 10 games, 66 receptions, 753 yards, 4 touchdowns
* avg w/out Clark: 6.6 receptions, 75.3 yards per game

That’s a 25 percent drop in yards per game from Wayne during Clark’s absence, a strong number.

It’s easy to assume that Batman losing Robin would impact his production, but the consideration that Tamme was putting up similar/better numbers than Clark makes the dropoff from Wayne more intriguing. Certainly the entire free world wasn’t ignoring Tamme to double Wayne for ten weeks… right?

The bigger question is how Peyton Manning managed to have the biggest yard-producing season of his incredible career. He has always been known for making no-name players (like Tamme) into household names in only a couple short weeks.

But the impact of Clark’s injury is noticeable on Manning’s numbers as well.

The Colts averaged almost the same number of pass attempts per game without Clark (42.5) as they did with him (42.3). However, Manning’s completion percentage dropped by nearly two percent and 0.5 completions per game.

OK… so what? Half a completion? Two percent? Really?

Try these numbers on for size:

* w/ Clark: 319.3 yards, 2 TDs, 0.3 INT per game
* w/out Clark: 278.4 yards, 2 TDs, 1.5 INT per game

So Manning’s attempts and completions were nearly identical whether Clark was on the field or not. But he averaged 41 fewer yards per game (or 13 percent) without Clark. He also saw a 450% increase in his interceptions per game. Four hundred fifty percent!

Manning had a passer rating over 100 in four of the Colts first six games. In the final 10, without Clark, he broke the century mark only three more times.

The catalyst for the Colts offense is clearly Clark. For the Colts to make another run at postseason glory, they’ll need him to be healthy for a full season in 2011.

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