Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay has been almost non-existent this season. Coming in to yesterday's contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, Clay has one reception for two yards. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said before the game, getting Clay involved in the offense was an important goal for the day. The second year tight end had three catches for 35 yards on the day, and was clearly a target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
However, it's the end of that third reception that has become the focus of Clay's play. On third-and-eight with 2:00 left in the game, Tannehill threw a short pass to Clay. Sherman said, during his Monday press conference, Clay was the only target on that play. Either Tannehill was going to throw the ball to Clay, or take a sack to keep the clock running.
Clay made the reception, turned up field for a five yard gain...before running out of bounds. The play ate six second off of the clock, and failed to pick up the first down. Meaning, on fourth-and-three, with 1:54 on the clock, the Dolphins had to punt the ball back to the Bengals.
Down just four points, and nearly a full two minutes left on the clock, the Bengals could very easily have moved down the field to win the game. Luckily for Clay, second year quarterback Andy Dalton overthrew a pass and Miami safety Reshad Jones picked it off to secure the game.
"He caught the ball about three yards inside the hashmark. What he should have done is turn up [field]," Sherman said.
Sherman was then asked if you could describe Clay's development as "baby steps." "It certainly appears to be that way," he replied.
The play ended up not costing the Dolphins. However, when a team is trying to learn how to win close games, a mistake like Clay's is way too dangerous. The defense stepped up and secured the win, but if Clay is going to become a bigger part of the offense, he cannot be making plays like that. He needs to understand the situation better or else he won't be seeing the field in those situations again.