MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller went down with a serious knee injury during the preseason; the tight end position once again became a position of concern for the Dolphins and its fans.
But, through two games this season, the Dolphins have seen one of Keller's backups step into an expanded role and produce solid results for the Dolphins. Tight end Charles Clay has played a hybrid fullback/tight end role and has been a popular target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
"He's just playing faster. His play speed is better. I think he's just more comfortable in his role," said Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. "He's gotten more repetition at it, so you hope the practice reps transfer to the game field. That's certainly been the cause."
Through two games, Clay has caught 10 passes for 163, or an average of 81.5 receiving yards per game. Clay also scored a touchdown on a one-yard touchdown plunge against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.
The Fins had expected Keller to have a big role in the offense as a pass receiving tight end. But Keller's gruesome knee injury ended his season before it began. Now Clay is making the most of his opportunity as the starter.
"He did a good job. He did the things we asked him to do," Philbin said. "He's a smart player, but he's obviously got things to work on. I think he made a nice contribution."
One of the things Clay will need to improve on is his blocking, which is weak among the tight ends at this point in the season. Clay is more of a receiver while his backup, Dion Sims, is more of a traditional blocking tight end.
The Fins hope is they can work both of them into the lineup and have a true two tight end set that can punish a defense with the run. But right now, the Dolphins are still riding high after two straight road wins to start the 2013 season, but they also remember the last team to pull off the feat, the Dolphins in 2010, ended the season 7-9.
"It's not easy to win on the road in the National Football League. We weren't surprised at the type of game we were in," Philbin said of last Sunday's game. "We thought it was a game that would kind of be like that, so to speak. We knew we were going to have to make some plays in the fourth quarter. We probably will have to do that at home as well as on the road."
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