That's what Bears fans have been saying about the tight end position on offense for quite some time. In the first two years of head coach Lovie Smith's regime, the tight end was little more than a third tackle and mostly on the field to assist in the running game. Perhaps not by coincidence, the passing attack suffered greatly by consequence.
But that has all come to a screeching halt in 2006 as Desmond Clark is one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL right now. A forgotten man the last two years with just 48 combined receptions, he is a big reason why quarterback Rex Grossman is having so much success throwing the ball. Clark is the Bear Report Stud of the Week.
Clark had a huge day against the 49ers on Sunday at Soldier Field. He reeled in a team-high six passes for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the league's 30th ranked passing defense. His tremendous versatility was on display in the second quarter. Clark caught his first TD of the day on a 4th-and-Goal play-action pass from the shadows of the San Francisco end zone. And then just before the half expired, he got loose in the middle of the field and scored from 27 yards out on a beauty of a toss from Grossman down the seam.
Clark now has 28 receptions on the season for 391 yards and three touchdowns. He is on pace to set career-highs in all three categories, proving that the hard work he did this past offseason is paying dividends. Clark came to training camp back in July about 15 pounds lighter and has made offensive coordinator Ron Turner look like a genius for rediscovering the tight end's importance in his aerial assault.
Furthermore, Clark's ability to wreak havoc between the hashmarks has made life easier for the likes of Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian on the outside. Too fast for most linebackers and too big for most safeties, he creates mismatches every time he breaks free in the secondary. Muhammad and Berrian are seeing a fair amount of single coverage as a result.
Clark's next catch will be the 200th of his career.