Dallas Clark on IR: What It Means for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts

Alek FrostCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 13: Dallas Clark #44 of the Indianapolis Colts is pictured during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts' Pro Bowl tight end, Dallas Clark, will undergo season-ending wrist surgery and has been placed on the injured reserve list.

"It's unfortunate, but it's been confirmed that surgery is necessary to repair the injury to my wrist," Clark said in a statement released by the team. "I have met with three great surgeons, Dr. [Arthur] Rettig of the Colts, Dr. [Thomas] Wiedrich in Chicago and Dr. [Thomas] Graham in Cleveland. All three have helped me and my family out tremendously during this process. I look forward to supporting my teammates the rest of this season and rehabilitating my wrist back to full strength for next season."

Potentially, only a handful of tight ends in the NFL have the skill-set and impact on their respective offenses that Clark has for the Colts. He is, other than maybe Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers, the most versatile tight end in football.

Clark has the speed to line-up in the slot, and other than Reggie Wayne, is Peyton Manning's most consistent target in the passing game. Clark had a career year in 2009, catching 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career. 

Manning began the season with what looked like a stock pile of weapons in Wayne, Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez. Collie, who was having a breakout season, is out indefinitely following thumb surgery and Gonzalez has had issues with his ankle, but should return after the Colts' bye week.

I never want to say the Colts are in trouble with Manning at the helm, and it isn't like they haven't dealt with injuries before (Gonzalez missed all but one quarter in the first game of last season and Clark has missed 13 regular season games since 2003), but Clark epitomizes the term security blanket. When Manning is being rushed and needs to make a quick outlet pass, more often than not, Clark is his go-to-option.

With their pass protection being less than impressive at times this season, it could become a bigger issue now that the Colts are without Clark's services. That isn't to say the offensive line hasn't improved a great deal as the season has progressed, but Jacob Tamme will have to be the man, and although I see a lot of potential in the third year man out of Kentucky, he isn't Dallas Clark.

This is a big hit for a Colts' offense that has struggled to establish the stereotypical rhythm-and-flow of a Peyton Manning offense. That was, until Indy played Washington last week. The offense looked like a well-oiled machine when the Colts ran the hurry-up throughout the first half and late into the second half of Sunday's contest.

This was despite Clark being a non-factor.

However, his presence alone opened things up for Garcon, who had four catches, 103 yards and one touchdown. The Redskins had Clark in a box all day and he only broke out of it once, when he caught a 24-yard pass in the second half. 

Indy's offense will still be productive and give opposing defensive coordinators headaches, but expect more four-receiver sets, with Wayne, Garcon, Gonzalez and rookie Blair White, until Collie can make it back on the field.

This injury is like making The Departed without Mark Wahlberg. It would be better with him involved, but it's still damn good because of all of the other other contributors. The Colts will still make the playoffs and still contend for the Lombardi trophy. So order some cranberry juice, sit back and watch Peyton work.