Tight end Dallas Clark had a career season last year, catching 58 passes for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy and tight end Dallas Clark spoke to the Houston media on Wednesday via conference call about their Sunday matchup against the Texans at Reliant Stadium on Oct. 5.
Colts head coach Tony Dungy
(on the bye week being early in the season and if it was at a good time for the team) "It really did. We complained about it when the schedule first came out, but it did help us, I think, get some of our ends healed up and gave us a chance to really focus and get back on our fundamentals, which is something we needed with some of the guys missing time early. So, I think it helps us. We had three good practices. I'm looking forward to getting ready today to really again start to prepare for an opponent."
(on what offensively does he want to see from QB Peyton Manning and others) "Well, we just have to be sharper and see if we can eliminate the mistakes and the negative plays that we've had that have caused us to lose yardage and see if we can eliminate some of the turnovers that we've had. We'll start making big plays and moving the football, but we've got to eliminate the errors and I think we'll be in good shape."
(on what is the key to a team being good in the red zone on both defense and offense) "It's tougher to throw the ball down there because there's less room to cover, there's the zone shrink down a little bit. So, you have to be good at running the football and be able to run it in when necessary. Conversely, you've got to be able to stop people from running if you want to be good in the red zone defense, try to force them to throw the ball in and then that's when your pass rushers can take over. So, for us, we try to not let people run the football in and we've concentrated the last few years on trying to be a good, efficient running team down inside the 20."
(on how the interior line is as far as the regular starters go) "We're actually better now. We're probably going to have most of our guys practicing today. (OT) Dan Federkeil may not be able to go, but I think everyone else on the offensive line should at least be able to practice. I don't know if (OT) Tony Ugoh and (G) Mike Pollak will be ready to actually play. We'll find that out more towards the end of the week, but at least we've got everyone practicing now and getting geared more towards being back at full strength."
(on DE Mario Williams) "Well, he's playing well for them. He's a big, active guy. He runs and chases things. He has pass rush ability. He's a guy that you have to be careful with when you just single block him one-on-one in the passing game. He's doing well. Especially with those defensive ends, we tend to get too hung up on statistics, 'If you don't have a sack, then it's not a good day.' A lot of times, you can dictate the type of protection you're getting; you can force quarterbacks to throw balls away and things like that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. But I think he's playing very well. I thought he had a Pro Bowl type year last year. It's always going to be hard because you're compared with some guys who get the ball a lot and who make highlight-film type plays, but he's playing great for them."
(on if this is still his last season) "No. I haven't said that yet (laughs). Maybe a lot of people are. If we don't start winning more games, it certainly will be (laughs)."
(on how he stands right now on whether he will coach again or if this will be his last year) "Yeah, I have for the last probably three years and probably will again at the end of this year. My wife and I will sit down and look at things at the end of the year: how we're doing with the team, what we can still accomplish, if I'm being effective, that type of thing and balance that with our family and some of the desires I have to do some other things off the field. But the last probably three years I've kind of said I'll evaluate at the end of the year."
(on when he retires if he will be a candidate for Dancing with the Stars reality show) "(laughs) I certainly will not. I'm curious to see. I haven't seen Warren (Sapp) yet, but I heard he did pretty well the first time. I will have some things that I'll want to do, but being around that is probably not one of them."
(on if he has taped the shows to watch Warren Sapp) "I have not. I have not. I need to watch them, though. I really do."
(on if he is surprised to see Warren Sapp do something like that and doing it well) "No, I'm not. I'm not. Warren (Sapp) is a pretty talented guy. He could do some very good things in a lot of areas. He's got charisma, and that's what I think works well on that show."
(on the importance of TE Dallas Clark in the offense and how he's changed his philosophy on using the tight end in the last 5-6 years) "Well, I don't know that we've changed our philosophy. It's just that we've gotten a guy like (TE) Dallas (Clark) who can do so many things. He's been a point of attack blocker for us, but he's a match up problem for people because he can catch the football down field. He's got the speed to get deep in the seam. He's a good route runner. He can catch the ball underneath. So, we kind of like to see how people are going to play us when he's in there. Do they go in nickel and bring extra defensive backs in, do they cover him with a linebacker, those types of things and then we kind of adjust what we do based on how the defense is playing us. But, he gives us a lot of options, a lot of flexibility because he can do more than one thing."
(on if the proof in that was especially during the Colts run for the Super Bowl during the playoffs) "He (TE Dallas Clark) had a great playoff run. He was fresh and ready to go and we did get some good match ups with people covering him with linebackers and safeties. It was just one of those things where it was a perfect storm and he took advantage of it."
(on TE Owen Daniels and what he's seen from him as a similar threat like TE Dallas Clark) "(He's) a similar guy. He's a matchup problem as we watch him catch the ball inside and work through traffic and people are trying to figure out how to play him and who to put on him. I would say very much similar."
(on what is QB Peyton Manning's mindset after the bye week and the 1-2 start) "Well, all of us I think have the same mindset that we've got to improve our consistency and our quality of play. We've got to play sharper and make a few less mistakes and if we do that, we're going to be in good shape. So, that's what we really went into the bye week really trying to work on, and I think we all did including (QB) Peyton (Manning), just doing what we should do, our normal things, but just doing them a little bit better, a little bit sharper."
(on if the bye week helped QB Peyton Manning health wise or was he good before the bye week health wise) "No, he (QB Peyton Manning) was pretty healthy. I think where it has helped him is just getting his timing with everyone on the offense, going through and making up for some of that time we missed in training camp."
(on if there is one thing that the team wasn't doing right or was doing wrong that caused the errors that he was talking about) "A lot of it was just communication. We had some different offensive linemen in and different guys making calls and just trying to be on the same page. We've had more sacks than we normally have had and more negative runs with maybe blocking just not being exactly the way we wanted it. We've got to eliminate that and eliminate the turnovers. We've given up two touchdowns for scores on our offense. Those are things that we can eliminate."
(on how much of the problems is attributed to not having C Jeff Saturday) "It's easy to make excuses. You can say, 'Hey, with (QB) Peyton (Manning), no training camp and miss (C) Jeff Saturday and miss (T) Tony Ugoh, miss this guy and that guy.' The bottom line is that we just have to play sharp no matter who's there and we've had time where we've missed players. (C) Jeff's (Saturday) been out before. So, we can't really use that as an excuse."
(on what is the key for a guy like TE Owen Daniels as far as extending and sustaining the kind of success he's had in his first three seasons) "Well, the key, I think, as it's been for (TE) Dallas (Clark), is to have some other guys around him. As long as they keep (WR) Andre Johnson and (WR) Kevin Walter and guys like that around, then it becomes tough to say, 'Hey, we're going to make sure we take (TE) Owen Daniels away.' The more balls you catch, the more attention you get and he'll (TE Owen Daniels) start to get more attention but that will open up other guys. I think he's going to be in good shape because they do have some other good weaponry around him."
(on what he needs to see from his run defense after the first three outings) "We'll we just have to play sharper. We've been through this before at different periods of time. We went through this just before our Super Bowl run in '06 where we just weren't sharp. We're not hitting things aggressively, and that's what we've got to do, make those tackles when we're playing full speed, swarm to the ball. Nothing really different scheme wise, we just have to play better and play a little bit faster."
(on if he is missing the defensive tackles as well on the running defense) "Again, we've had injuries. We've had other guys be out and what has to happen is someone else on your team has to step up. I think before the Jacksonville game two weeks ago, we were 20 and five in games that (DB) Bob (Sanders) didn't play. So, yeah you miss him, but we've always found ways to win and to make up for those losses, and we've got to do the same thing for the next couple of weeks here."
(on if OT Tony Ugoh is going to play on Sunday) "He's (T Tony Ugoh) going to practice today, and we'll see how he does. He was much better last week and we're hoping to get him back in the lineup now."
(on if C Jeff Saturday is going to play) "(C) Jeff (Saturday) did fine. He actually played the whole way against Jacksonville and played well."
Colts TE Dallas Clark
(on the Colts coming off the bye week) "Yeah, when the schedule came out, you look and you're like, 'Week 3? Holy cow. That's early.' But I think things happen for a reason and we definitely needed it. I think guys took full advantage of it. The people that are healthy just got away and got rested, but the people that were hurt were able to get a chance to get some extra days of treatment and just get better. So, I think we're going to be a lot healthier than we've been and I think we'll be… It was very important, and hopefully it pays off and we come out and start playing better."
(on the offense and what he expects for Peyton after the bye week) "I think we're just going to get more consistent every week. Every week we've seen little improvements with the offense and the running game and the passing game and guys just getting better and making plays. But we're still doing those negative plays that are hurting us and making it hard on us as an offense. I think the more games we have, the more time we're together, I think it will eventually just keep getting sharper and sharper. So, that's what we're working towards. We're just coming out here everyday trying to get better and just stay focused as a team and not worry about anything else. Just really focusing on your job and getting better everyday. Hopefully all that turns into better production."
(on how much more comfortable he is after missing the second game and if he expects to get more involved) "I don't know. I always feel comfortable out there and I only missed one game, so it's not like I missed too much. I just think in general I think everyone's productivity is going to get risen; their bar is going to get raised just because we need to. We are kind of stagnant right now with our productivity. So I think people will all across the board will start getting more plays and more things geared towards them, and hopefully the results are big plays and getting some points on the board."
(on what he knows about TE Owen Daniels) "I know he is a very solid tight end. I have not seen much on him, just only when our opponent's defense is playing the Houston offense. This year I haven't seen much of him, but I know he's doing really well."
(on what the key to sustaining a career at tight end) "Well, just reliability is really key. It's a tough job. You're kind of torn between being caught up with the offensive lineman, with the run plays and the pass protection, but then also you get thrown out with the receivers and running routes and being on the same page as them. So, its attention to detail and I think the more guys can focus in on their job and because it's tough. You have to know everything, basically. You almost have to be on the same page as the quarterback and the center, you know, that type of relationship. Because I think it's a job, it's a position that you can be put everyone. You can be asked to block, you can be asked to go out and you have to know both. It's really a versatile position. And I think the more you can become versatile, I think the more successful you will be at the position. So, if a guy is really good at run blocking and during the offseason he works on running routes and being quick out of the break and catching balls and working on hand-eye and watching the ball in. Those little things, and then vice-versa, if you're a better receiver, work on your blocking and techniques and fundamentals there. So, it's a position that you can just always keep growing and always get better and it's a great position. So, I think that's kind of the quick keys to success. There's a lot of other things, but that's kind of what off the top I have."
(on how he has seen the tight end position develop over time) "Oh, absolutely. I think offenses are really - I think they see the potential and they see the success that you can have when you use a tight end. And just being able to be, I think it's just another weapon and I think it just makes your more complex as an offense where you're not just throwing to the two wideouts or the slot receiver. The more you can use your tight end, you can put defenses at disadvantages. I think teams have obviously, it has to work with their scheme overall as an offense. Some teams just don't even try to have a pass receiving tight end, but some teams do. So it's kind of whatever philosophy you take, but there's definitely some positives from having a kind of a wide receiver-type built tight end at that position. I think it's either way. It's just kind of whatever scheme you have. But I think lately, in the last five years, I think that has really been a popular type prototype player - to get that receiving-type tight end."
(on how important it was to their Super Bowl run to be so involved in the offense) "Well, I think it was key because, especially when you have two potential, one definitely Hall of Fame receiver, and Reggie (Wayne) is as good as they come. So, when you have two guys like that at wide out, obviously defensive focuses are going to be on them, to stop them. And you need to use a couple guys to do that because they are so good against one-on-one. So, it really opens up a lot of things and so we were just able to take advantage of a few things that defenses were doing to us. And it definitely helped us and it was a lot of fun. But that was fully just taking advantage of what Reggie and Marv bring to the table."
(on how key it is to not overlook the Texans and what his mindset is when he plays them) "Well, its definitely not overlooking, that's for sure. We are preparing and we are really just focusing on just getting better. We're not playing great football either, ourselves. So, it's just one day at a time, one game at a time. So, we're definitely not looking forward to anything down the road. We're looking forward to this game and improving and getting better and just getting better as a team. We're looking for a good week of preparation and going down there on Sunday and trying to execute."
(on how much the week off helped them) "It helped out tremendous. I think we really needed it. Usually we would think it was kind of early. But the way the season has been going, I think it couldn't have come at a better time. I think guys really took advantage of it and just kind of refresh and regroup and come out and hopefully just start playing better."
(on if there is anything specific they tried to correct on offense during the bye week) "No, not really. We just need to focus on execution. Every play we have, every negative play we have, there's just always some little break down here or there and it's just someone just not being really on top of the details, and that costs you in this game. We are working on that, and I think everyone is kind of taken it upon themselves to get better and to do whatever they have to do to get better as a player. Then, overall, it will help our production on offense. There's really not one thing, it's just kind of everyone just raising their games up a little bit and playing a little more sharper and more attention to detail, like coach Dungy always says. And, overall, that will get us better."
(on how much they have missed C Jeff Saturday) "Huge. He's the anchor of the offensive line and him and Peyton work very well together. They've been working for years. Just the communication he brings to the rest of the guys and get everyone on the same page. He's a how-many-time Pro Bowler here and he's one of the best. Anytime you lose a guy like that, you just don't replace a guy like that. But we're definitely not as a team making excuses or anything like that because that's not our nature and you just don't have time for that in this profession. It definitely hurt but we learned a lot when guys are down. You learn a lot about yourself. Other guys behind them get good looks and get a good experience. So, there's definitely some good that comes from it but it's definitely good to have him back."
(on how it affects him as a tight end to have Sautrday out at center) "Not too much. We are kind of a ways away. But just overall calls, I think the biggest thing is just making sure everyone is on the same page and I think Jeff does a great job of making the right calls and making them quick. They just have that continuity together. When you take that out, it takes a little bit, I think everyone got better and I know they're definitely happy he his back. But the rookie that stepped in that played while he was gone learned a lot and that will definitely help him down the road."
(on what the mental preparation is knowing they are coming into a building with an intense crowd excited about the first home game) "Yeah, it's going to be a great environment. I think it's great for the city of Houston and the fans and the whole organization that they are able to come back and play after all the destruction done to the city and the stadium. It's going to be emotional. It's going to be emotional for the city and the team and going in as the opponent; it's going to be tough. We're looking forward to the challenge. But when it's all said and done, our job is to get the fans out of it and to do that we have to execute. That's our goal. We can't give them any momentum because the fans are going to be crazy and loud. It's just going to be a great football environment and we're definitely looking forward to it."
(on how the Colts are looking at this game differently at 1-2 because they are usually on top of the division) "Yeah, it's a different position for us. But like I've been saying, we just need to focus on one day at a time and just focus individually on getting better and collectively we'll get better as a team. So, we've been having little break downs here and there that have cost us big. The less mistakes we have, the more chances we'll have to do some good things. But we've been shooting ourselves in the foot. As soon as we start playing sharper and making plays, good things are going to happen. We just have to focus on the little things and the details and just get back on track. That's the challenge of this game. It's not easy to be successful. So, you're a play away, a play here or a play there differently, records could be different all around the league. So, you just have to keep working. Show up the next day and work hard. Every time you go out there try to get better and overall, it will pay off."
(on the Texans being undefeated with the roof open under Gary Kubiak) "Hopefully, it doesn't rain; I don't know. It doesn't really matter to us. You don't really have time to focus on whether the roof is open. We can play in the backyard or in the parking lot; we'll show up and play. The same way with Houston, they could care less if another place is open or closed. All we worry about is good footing and you just go and play ball after that. So, it doesn't really matter. We're just looking forward to coming down and just being part of all that and being there for their home opener."