BY SEAN DONOVAN
Arguably the most consistent performer for the Miami Dolphins' offense in 2013 was a guy little was expected of going into the season.
Tight end Charles Clay, who was a projected backup behind free agent signing Dustin Keller, stepped up in a huge way after Keller went down with a knee injury in the preseason.
Clay hauled in 69 passes for 759 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns, each total an increase from his previous year's production by a factor of three. The third-year pro also added a touchdown on the ground.
Clay provided a matchup problem for defenses and a legitimate after-the-catch threat, but head coach Joe Philbin thinks his young versatile weapon's contributions extend beyond the stat sheet.
Philbin specifically mentioned his performance in Miami's Week 15 win over the New England Patriots, in which Clay had just one reception, as one of his best of the year.
“We thought one of the better games he played was that New England game where he had one six-yard catch,” Philbin recently told the Finsiders, via the team's website. “He really played hard, he blocked well and he did everything that was asked of him."
"[The Patriots] committed a lot of resources to taking him away and he opened things up for other guys," Philbin continued. "I think he’s a real team player so I’m excited about having him on the club and I’m looking forward to him having a big year.”
Even that one 6-yard reception made a substantial impact, converting a 4th-and-5 on what would be the Dolphins' go-ahead fourth quarter touchdown drive. That score turned out to be the difference, as Miami went on to win 24-20.
The play was emblematic of the type of year Clay had, helping the team in a critical way after a key starter went down before the season started. Philbin believes those results were well-deserved for the hard-working Clay.
“You love to see guys like him have success because the guy works his butt off,” he said. “I think he made significant progress last year and made a real valuable contribution.”
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