Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lawson, Clay poised for entertaining battle


If we took a poll this summer on which AFC East tight end would be the most productive through six weeks, Charles Clay probably wouldn't have made the list.

But given the drama surrounding the position throughout the division, as well as within the Miami Dolphins' depth chart, Clay has certainly made the most of the opportunity.

"Their tight end is coming up strong," Bills linebacker Manny Lawson told reporters this week about the 24-year-old Clay Wednesday. "He’s really showcased himself as a dominant tight end in the league and that’s a guy to watch."

Much of the talk out of Dolphins camp throughout the offseason was focused on the free-agent acquisition of Dustin Keller. And while Clay certainly figured to be part of the mix, his role as mismatch extraordinaire in the middle of the field has come as a welcomed addition to a passing game with a handful of viable targets.

“He’s a special talent,” Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson said Tuesday, via The Palm Beach Post.  "He’s done a great job blocking at tight end. His impact on the running game has been very, very good. 

"Passing-game wise, I think you guys see the effect he makes. He stretches the field vertically with his speed. He’s a big mismatch for anyone guarding him.”

Clay is currently 10th among tight ends in reception yards (297) and eighth in yards after the catch (144). He'll have a tough matchup against Buffalo, which has held tight ends to an average of 31 yards and zero touchdowns since Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen's 84-yard performance, which included a touchdown. 

Much of that defensive success, which came against the like of Jordan Cameron and Jermaine Gresham, can be placed on the shoulders of Lawson, who was lauded by coach Doug Marrone Wednesday. 

"I think Manny has done extremely well, playing the edges and forcing it," Marrone said. "Really making a lot of plays on the run, whereas I think before in the past people have said, ‘Is he strong enough? Can he hold the point?’ He’s proved he can do that, so that’s been extremely well for us."

Lawson is ranked at the top of his class among 3-4 linebackers, currently No. 1 against the pass according to ProFootballFocus. He's allowed 20 total reception yards in passes thrown his direction through six games, which averages out to 2.2 yards per catch.

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