Last in a series
Colts TE Dallas Clark vs. Saints SS Roman Harper
There are some who feel that TE Dallas Clark is the real key to the Colts' offense after Peyton Manning. That's because there might not be a player who is ideally suited to cover Clark one-on-one. The best matchup might be SS Roman Harper, but others certainly will be asked to cover Clark. The Saints also will mix in some zone coverage, as well.
The Saints will have some tough decisions to make. They will have to figure out how best to cover the Colts' wideouts and Clark. Most teams opt to use nickel and dime packages as their true base coverage against the Colts. The Saints are not exceptionally deep in the secondary, so they likely will put a lesser defensive back on the field and take a talented linebacker (or defensive lineman) off it.
Defensively, the Saints appear willing to use some three-man lines. They'll play a 3-3-5 alignment, or even a 3-5-3, and they'll do it with Clark in mind. Harper or nickel CB Randall Gay can pick Clark up when he stretches the seam, as can FS Darren Sharper. Clark runs a good number of vertical routes, and the Colts often will test teams early in games — especially against man coverage — with Clark running straight down the field.
Clark said he has noticed how the Saints have played their schemes and knows he won't face one type of coverage.
"They can do a lot of different things," Clark said. "They have a good group of guys that can make plays, and they have a nose for the ball. Those safeties and those corners, when that ball is thrown, they come down with a lot of them. They pose a lot of threats with their different looks and different schemes of bringing different people and bringing pressure from different ways with different people.
"It changes, so you really don't know what's going to happen, how they're going to play it, so it's one of those things (where) you just prepare for a lot of different things and different looks. Just kind of get a feel of how the game is going to go on and just kind of judge from there.
"They are not that vanilla team, 4-3 lineup you know where they are going to be. They've got a lot of different looks. So it'll be interesting to see. They always have a wrinkle there for different teams, so I am sure they will have something that we haven't seen before and we've just got to adjust."
Clark most often is lined up in the slot. The Saints used a linebacker often against Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe last week and had success in the first half keeping him down. But the Vikings recognized the mismatch and went to Shiancoe with success in the third quarter. Clark is a more important cog in the Colts' offense, and he will be a key indicator early. If the Saints use a safety on him, Clark's routes might be shorter, where he can use his physical edge to get open; against a linebacker, especially Saints SLB Scott Fujita, Clark will get more chances to make plays down the field.
As always, if you roll coverage toward Clark or WR Reggie Wayne, that will leave the backside open. And what we have seen is that WRs Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, when given the chance, can be very dangerous against single coverage.
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