22 Starters in 22 Days: Desmond Clark

The Bears went without a tight end in the draft, which lends credence to the theory that the decision makers don't value the position or are confident Desmond Clark can do the job. Still, the lack of the production from the returning trio on the roster meant the team sought out two undrafted free agents to create competition.

Unless something happens after the June 1st cut date, Clark will go to Bourbonnais as the starting tight end. He's caught 92 balls for 944 yards and five touchdowns in his three seasons with the Bears. The opportunities to get involved in the passing game haven't been spread around. Over the same span, the rest of tight ends have combined for 27 grabs, 185 yards and two touchdowns.

However, 44 of Clark's receptions and nearly half of the yardage came in 2003. He's finished with 24 catches each of the past two seasons. As is the case with any pass catcher on the roster, instability behind center has had an impact on his production. Seven different quarterbacks have started for the Bears since he came to Chicago.

Although the six-foot-3, 254-pounder has improved his blocking in the Bears' run oriented offense, Clark has been inconsistent as a receiver. He's made spectacular over the shoulder catches, but dropped balls that were seemingly in his hands. He's only had more than 27 receptions in a season twice. The lack of competition behind him makes his weaknesses even more apparent.

Without an established veteran to challenge Clark, the idea is to improve the overall depth at the position. Even though John Gilmore is the best blocking tight end on the roster, he has just two catches over the last three years. The fact that he signed a two-year deal with the team in off-season means his roster spot is relatively safe.

Gabe Reid has the ability to catch the ball, but his blocking leaves something to be desired. Undrafted free agents Tim Day and Cooper Wallace both have a chance to beat out Reid.

While Day is more of a threat to stretch the middle of the field, injuries kept him from being a middle round draft pick. If he can stay healthy he will have a good chance to make the team. Wallace is more of a complete tight end. He can be an inline blocker and also has the talent to be a midrange option in the passing game.

If either Day or Wallace can contribute as rookies it will make the position stronger. Finding a complimentary target at tight end would take pressure off Clark and make him more effective over the course of the season.


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