March 9, 2010
The Miami Dolphins had no idea that when free agent safety Ryan Clark made a visit to South Florida that leverage was exactly what the Dolphins were being used as. Within the same day of the visit, Clark re-signed with his former team in the Pittsburgh Steelers. So much for addressing the safety position for the Dolphins.
Then again, this could have been a blessing from the Football Gods.
Taking a look at Clark's effectiveness as a replacement to Troy Polamalu we find not-so-impressive statistics. First and foremost, the 2009 Steelers were 5-6 in games played without Polamalu, which goes to show you his importance as an impact player for Pittsburgh. But the passing defense was what suffered the most in those Polamalu-less games that Clark took the safety role.
In the 11 games that Clark started at safety, the Steelers allowed an average of 221.6 yards per game. In only three of those games, did Pittsburgh hold their opponents to under 200 passing yards. At the end of the 2009 regular season, the Steelers ranked 16th in the league in pass defense. Conversely, the Steelers held the number one ranked pass defense just the season before, when Polamalu was healthy and wreaking havoc in the secondary.
Clark recorded 89 tackles, 8 passes deflected and 3 interceptions in 2009, but those numbers are strikingly similar to Gibril Wilson's statistics in his brief one-year stint with the Dolphins. Wilson tallied 93 tackles, 8 passes deflected and no interceptions. An additional three interceptions over the course of 16 games may not be the upgrade Miami was looking for. In essence, Clark would not be the savior of the Dolphins' safety position.
That is why, on "secondary" thought, the Dolphins were fortunate to not sign Clark, leaving their options open to potential trades and draft prospects. Guess that means that the safety position is still on the board for Miami's first round draft choice.