Saskatchewan Roughriders' offensive lineman Dan Clark caught a touchdown pass against Hamilton.There were plenty of unusual plays in Week Four's CFL action, including Fred Bennett chasing down Noel Devine and the blocked Rene Paredes field goal that didn't count as an attempt, but the strangest-looking of all may have come in Saskatchewan's 37-0 romp over Hamilton Sunday. The play came at the end of the third quarter, with the Riders up 16-0 and facing a first and goal from the eight-yard line. Darian Durant dropped into the pocket, but saw a Hamilton rusher coming through, so he threw the ball...to offensive lineman Dan Clark.
Clark, who came up through the Canadian junior football ranks with the Regina Thunder, has been in the CFL off and on since 2009, but this was his first catch of any kind, and his first touchdown catch. It was also a nice (and perfectly legal) play that fooled the Tiger-Cats' defence: if you count the men on the line at the start of the play, there are the traditional five offensive linemen (two tackles, two guards and a centre) plus Clark, allowing him to be an eligible receiver, as he's essentially playing tight end. Of course, the CFL barely uses tight ends, so the expectation from Hamilton is likely that this is a max-protection scheme with Clark staying in to block. He helps to sell that a bit too, coming off the line with a brief hit on the Tiger-Cats' end opposite him before running his route. No one picked him up in coverage (and it's clear this was a designed play, as the rest of the Saskatchewan receivers are blocking for him), allowing an easy-throw-and-catch for a touchdown.
Would this work in other circumstances? Well, potentially. There are a few problems with making a play like this part of your regular offensive arsenal, though. Most guys built like the 6'2'', 310-pound Clark aren't necessarily all that good at catching passes, so you have to find a lineman with a good set of hands to make this work. Moreover, most guys that large aren't all that quick or that able to jump high, so you can't depend on them beating defenders in coverage. This works thanks to the element of surprise thanks to Hamilton expecting Clark to stay in as a blocker (and as he wears #77 rather than a traditional offensive line number, he doesn't have to report as an eligible receiver), but that surprise is reduced the more it's used. Still, this is pretty sound schematically: the regular offensive linemen keep most of the pass rushers off, while the rusher opposite Clark gets through, but doesn't have time to hit the quarterback before he gets a throw off, and the rest of the receivers seal Clark off from the remainder of the defence. It's not merely a gimmick, but it is a play you can't use too terribly often: it is something other CFL teams might want to take a look at, though. Even if we don't see another play like this during this season, though, this touchdown will be a moment Clark will always remember.