What Do Dallas Clark, Brandon Stokley Bring to the Baltimore Ravens?
On the heels of the Baltimore Ravens' preseason Week 1 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team, per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, signed two veteran free agents to boost its receiving corps—wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark.
Though the Ravens defeated the Buccaneers by a 44-16 margin, the first-team offense was a halting affair. Starting quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception after receiver Jacoby Jones failed to execute the proper route and the rest of Flacco's passes were to running back Ray Rice and fullback Vonta Leach. Clearly, the Ravens didn't think much of their receivers despite the win and chose to bring on the two experienced free agents to give their offense a boost.
The Ravens certainly needed to find a workable solution to the one-two punch of having traded receiver Anquan Boldin in the offseason and losing tight end Dennis Pitta for the season with a hip injury. But can Clark and Stokley give the Ravens what they need?
For the short term, at least, the answer is yes. Jones' gaffe during the first preseason game is a reminder why he didn't last with the Houston Texans—when asked to take a major receiving role in an offense, he's often overwhelmed. It is also a reminder that the Ravens are still thin at receiver, especially in regard those who could potentially start.
While LaQuan Williams had brief flashes—two catches for 32 yards on four targets—and Aaron Mellette added a 21-yard catch of his own against Tampa, neither can take up the snaps and workload that used to be Boldin's. At least Stokley has proved reliable enough in the past to handle the job should the Ravens need him.
The signing of Clark also makes sense. Pitta is done for the year and fellow tight end Ed Dickson is dealing with a "minor" hamstring tear that may or may not cause him to miss the start of the regular season. With just Visanthe Shiancoe and Matt Furstenburg as anything close to legitimate starting-capable tight ends, the Ravens were smart to bring Clark in if only to see what's left in his tank in his 11th season in the NFL.
Further, Stokley and Clark are far more plug-and-play ready for the Ravens than other free agents still on the market. Though the former began his career in Baltimore and most recently spent time with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos and the latter is coming off of a single season in Tampa, the two spent the bulk of their careers with the Indianapolis Colts, where current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell worked with the two players in a similar capacity. They know Caldwell's offense and can adapt to their new team more quickly than others who lack familiarity with the system.
As receivers, there are few words that can better describe Stokley and Clark than "reliable," which is the exact quality the Ravens need presently. Though both players are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, it doesn't mean they cannot contribute this season.
Clark has 474 career receptions on 591 targets for 5,322 yards and 50 touchdowns and had 47 catches for 435 yards and four scores last year. Stokley has caught 384 career passes for 5,224 yards and 39 touchdowns and had 45 receptions last year for 544 yards and five scores. Though the bulk of their production came while Peyton Manning was passing them the football, that doesn't mean that Flacco cannot get big things—first downs, touchdowns—out of the pair.
Clearly, the Ravens realized that the best solution to their problems in the passing game didn't reside on their roster as it was and called in Clark and Stokley to improve the situation. Though neither are going to be 1,000-yard receivers for Baltimore this year, the two could combine for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, which certainly doesn't hurt. Though circumstance forced the Ravens' hand, the team lucked out by finding two proven veterans with experience in a similar offensive system.
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