I want to go a little more in depth this morning about the seasons that two Colts are having. First, let's look at Jacob Tamme.
His production is absolutely replaceable. What effect his absence has on the way teams play the Colts remains to be seen
After a strong opening pair of games, Clark's production in terms of yards had tailed off as teams keyed on him. Manning simply found other targets. He still threw Clark the ball, but he wasn't getting significant plays. Clark had fewer than 60 yards receiving in three of his last four games.
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Clark's advanced metrics had also suffered this year.
How has that played out?
Tamme has more than matched Clark's output in the passing game.
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Ok, so when I said the Colts could match Clark's production, I didn't mean EXACTLY! Yet, that's what's happened. Manning is using Tamme exactly the same way and with virtually the same production the Colts got from Clark. Just in terms of raw production, I don't think anyone would argue that Indy has lost anything in the swap. The Indy offense is actually averaging more points a game since the injury than before (27.6 to 27.1).
That's not to say the loss of Clark had no effect. Tamme isn't as good a blocker as Clark (who isn't a super star blocker anyway). What we have seen is a massive drop in yard per attempt from Manning as teams don't quite respect Tamme up the seam the way they did Clark. It has felt like safeties can play a step close to the line. Of course, some of this could simply be the loss of Collie, as well. It's impossible to tease out exactly which guy is the bigger loss, but given the production of Tamme, it would seem that Collie has had a bigger impact. His loss has resulted for more touches for Blair White (only 9.5 YPC) and Reggie Wayne (159 targets, a career high through just 15 games).
Again, I keep saying this, but the Colts HAVE to at least consider letting Clark go. He has a lot of bonus money that can be written off. He'll be 32 years old. I've written before about how few TEs are productive after age 31. Only 10 TEs have ever posted a 600 yard season after age 32, and only 5 went for 800 yards. The Colts are going to make hard choices this offseason, and cutting Clark might have to be one of them. They can always try to resign him for less money, but it's better to cut a guy a year too soon than a year too late. I'm not saying that Tamme makes it possible for the Colts to cut Clark. I'm saying Clark's age and injury history mean the Colts have to think long and hard about it.
On to Wayne, he's having a strange season. His traditional numbers are spectacular. In fact, he's basically having the same exact season he had last year, right down to his yards per catch (12.6). He has fewer touchdowns this season, but for the most part he's put up lots of volume numbers. At times he's been sensational, as well. He dominated the fourth quarter of the Jags game. He had huge games against New England and Dallas. All in all, despite quietly battling injuries, Wayne has been the constant in the Indy offense. He's played hard and given his all.
He's also had some of the biggest gaffes of the season. His fumble at the Jags 10 yard line cost the Colts a win. His drop in overtime against the Cowboys likely deprived Indy of another victory. He's second in the NFL with 11 dropped passes this year. His advanced metrics have been horrible. His catch rate is down to 62% (from 67% last year) and his DVOA is below replacement level (-1.2%), which means he's catch a lot of passes that don't mean much in terms of getting first downs. He's had four 100 yard games (and two more over 96), but five games with 42 yards or fewer. Teams with good secondaries have been able to take him away.
He was deservedly voted to be a Pro Bowl starter last night, but the wear on his tread is starting to show. Wayne's last two seasons have been wonderful. He's still under contract for one more year, and wants a new deal. Frankly, I think Wayne's window as a top flight wideout is starting to close. One more year sounds about right. The Colts shouldn't think about giving him a new deal. He just turned 32 and will be 33 next year.
50 wideouts have posted 1000 yard seasons at age 33. 35 did it age 34. By age 35 it's down to 16 total seasons by just 12 men. By age 36, 5 seasons by 3 guys (Galloway, Rice, Smith). Signing Wayne to more than an additional year extension dramatically raises the odds the Colts will have an old, overpaid wideout on the roster. Wayne is at the top of his game now, but he won't be for much longer.
Clark and Wayne are two of the greatest Colts ever, and are corner stone players. In some ways, they are in the same boat as Manning. Whereas quarterbacks can be highly effective until age 40, wideouts and tight ends can't.