BY SEAN DONOVAN
As it turns out, Miami Dolphins starting tight end Dustin Keller's knee injury was just as bad as it looked.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Keller suffered three torn ligaments in his knee and a dislocated knee cap, and will miss the rest of the season. The injury occurred in the second quarter of Miami's 24-17 preseason loss to the Houston Texans on Saturday night.
The loss has shocked the Dolphins players, many of whom have echoed a 'next man up' sentiment as the team tries to move forward with the regular season fast approaching.
As for who that next man up will be to step up and fill Keller's shoes, the Dolphins may not need to look any further than third-year H-back Charles Clay, who feels ready to assume the starting tight end duties.
"It's been something I've worked on a lot, not only last season but this offseason," Clay said, according to The Miami Herald. "It's something that I feel comfortable doing. If I'm the next guy up, I'm going to go out there and give it everything I have."
The Dolphins have worked Clay mostly at fullback this preseason, perhaps with the vision of eliminating the need for a roster spot dedicated to a full-time fullback.
But Clay is Miami's most experienced and accomplished receiving tight end, and at this point, is a superior option than unpolished tight ends Dion Sims, a rookie, and Michael Egnew, a second-year player who played in just two games in his first year.
He's also better than any remaining available free agent, for that matter.
Clay bounced back from a tough start in 2012 to have a productive second half of the season, showing an improved understanding of the offense and chemistry with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He feels that progress will help him be a more dangerous receiving option out of the tight end spot.
He also feels the short time spent with Keller as a teammate will help him succeed in that role.
"I've been learning the little things that separate the good players from great players," Clay said. "That's the things I've learned from Dustin -- reading coverages, knowing what to expect before the play starts, things like that. I'm still working on it but that's probably where I've made the most growth so far."
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