TE Clay gives Dolphins much-needed punch
In his many roles with the Miami Dolphins, Charles Clay recalls
one assignment as especially daunting: He attempted to block
325-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a mismatch that made a
”He clubbed me across my head,” Clay recalled with a chuckle
That was two years ago during Clay’s rookie season. Lately he
has been the one to leave opponents sprawling, and his emergence as
a hybrid tight end with a big-play knack has given the Dolphins’
offense some much-needed punch.
”He has broken about 35 tackles in the last three games, taking
them on three at a time,” teammate Mike Wallace said. ”Guys don’t
even really need to block for Clay anymore. He’s like a
Clay’s actual statistics are only slightly less impressive than
Wallace’s exaggerated numbers.
In the past four games he has 24 receptions for 294 yards and
three scores, increasing his season totals to 60 catches for 678
yards. He has scored a team-high seven touchdowns.
With three regular-season games to go, including Sunday against
New England, Clay’s yardage total is already the second-highest by
a Dolphins tight end, according to STATS. He could surpass Randy
McMichael, who had 791 yards on 73 catches in 2004.
A sixth-round draft pick in 2011, Clay spent his first two
seasons backing up Anthony Fasano and totaled 34 receptions for 445
yards and five scores.
”The thing you’re seeing in him is just an evolution of a
younger player gaining confidence in himself, in feeling that we
have confidence in him and the quarterback has confidence in him,”
offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. ”It’s just a belief
system that has risen within himself that he could do certain
things that he didn’t know he could do before.”
Clay’s multiple talents were on display in Sunday’s win at
Twice he broke tackles by Troy Polamalu, and the second time he
kept running to the end zone for the fourth-quarter touchdown that
put Miami ahead to stay. He also scored on a reception in the first
half, and his block sprung quarterback Ryan Tannehill on a keeper
for a 48-yard gain.
”He’s a heck of an athlete that makes small plays and big
plays,” Tannehill said.
Unreliable blocking limited the 255-pound Clay’s playing time in
his first two seasons.
Doubts were such that the Dolphins signed free agent Dustin
Keller to start at tight end this season, but he suffered a
season-ending knee injury in August.
With experience, Clay has become a more physical player.
”Before I got here I heard them say he wasn’t a good blocker,
but I haven’t seen that,” said Wallace, who is in his first season
with Miami. ”I’ve seen him drive guys off the ball.”
Clay’s pass-catching ability has given the Dolphins a threat in
the middle of the field, making it more difficult for opponents to
double-team Wallace or Brian Hartline, and his speed is such that
Miami often splits him out wide.
Against Pittsburgh, he had seven catches for 97 yards to help
Miami score a season-high 34 points.
”As a secondary we talked about Clay often,” Steelers
cornerback Ike Taylor said. ”He’s another dimension to their
offense. Outside or inside, it doesn’t even matter, he showed what
he could do.”
At Tulsa, Clay played tailback, fullback, linebacker, defensive
end, wide receiver and wildcat quarterback, as well as tight end,
and he’s proud of his ability to wear ”multiple hats” with the
Dolphins, as he describes it.
But with versatility comes obscurity. Clay said he rarely gets
recognized while out shopping or dining, and while his smile
suggested he’s not complaining, he wants to be known as more than
just a utility-man.
”When you start playing when you’re little, you have a dream of
being one of those great players,” he said. ”That’s what
everybody works for. That’s what I want to happen.”
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and
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