Clark in Position to Breakout

Tight end Desmond Clark doesn't quite look like the wide receiver he was at Wake Forest in the late 1990s, but he has lost more than ten pounds from last year's 254. The question is whether or not it will help his game.

The eight-year veteran appeared much quicker and more effective as a pass receiver during off-season workouts after shedding the weight and reducing his percentage of body fat.

"It's been tremendous seeing what he's done through OTAs and mini-camp," Bears tight ends coach Rob Boras said. "This is my third spring with him, and this is by far his best. He's quicker out of his breaks. We'll find out how the weight loss affects him when we get to training camp as far as the blocking. But as far as being a route runner and being able to use quickness and speed to get open, it's definitely shown up."

In 2005, his third season with the Bears, Clark led the team's tight ends and finished fourth overall in receiving with 24 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the second consecutive season in which his production slipped and a far cry from the 51 catches for 566 yards he had with the Broncos in 2001.

"He does an all-around nice job in both the run and pass for us," Boras said. "The (increased) quickness is going to help him. That's one of the weaknesses that he and I have talked about, just trying to create some more separation and becoming more quarterback-friendly by getting open. And then also he must reduce the mental errors and the mistakes. Eliminating those things will make him even more of an all-around player for us."

The Bears aren't planning on a drastic change in their offensive scheme, but if Clark proves to be a more effective receiver, he could become the security blanket quarterback Rex Grossman and other Bears quarterbacks have lacked for many years. An off-season ankle injury that lingered throughout almost the entire training camp sabotaged Clark's 2005 season. So far, he's the picture of health.

"We're not calling different plays to get Desmond the ball," Boras said. "We're calling the same plays. But last year, Desmond had an ankle injury. He is our best receiving tight end, so having him healthy and having him participate in every practice, you would hope that we would be better at that position and that's showing up. It's not just lip service to say that if you're here you can prove yourself to the quarterback and you can get that comfort zone with him."

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