Miami Dolphins: Charles Clay

DAVIE, Fla. -- The first week of training camp is a time of immense optimism in the NFL. Every team is undefeated and believes it is worthy of the playoffs. Teams highlight strengths, not weaknesses, until the games matter in the regular season.

The same goes for Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is thinking big this upcoming season. Tannehill has lofty goals for himself and the Dolphins in 2014.

"We want to play deep into January and February," Tannehill said. "And that’s our goal at this point, is to go out, win the division and then play the playoffs from there. There is a big season ahead of us and I think anything less than that is not up to our standards."

Tannehill must set the tone for Miami. The previously mild-mannered quarterback is starting to be more vocal and make his presence felt. Tannehill is showing more emotion. This summer he screamed at a pair of receivers for making mistakes in practice, which is something the Miami media hadn’t previously seen.

The Dolphins are learning a new offensive under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor. Tannehill has to be an extension of Lazor on the field.

“One thing he has been doing, I tell people all of the time that he’s been a lot more vocal, taking a lot more control over this offense and over the team in general,” Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said. “You can see it in times like that, but he’s maturing a lot.”

It’s also clear the Dolphins are 100 percent behind Tannehill. He is just 15-17 as a starter and Miami averaged just 19.8 points per game last season.

But Tannehill has received universal praise from his teammates, who believe Tannehill is due for a breakout season. The quickest way for Miami to improve is for Tannehill to take the next step. The Dolphins have talented pieces in other positions and consistent quarterback play would take the team to a new level.

“I definitely think he has it,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said of Tannehill. “The thing I love about Ryan is his composure. I don’t think he ever gets rattled. I’ve never seen it, personally. He’s good at coming back like it [a mistake] never happened and that’s what we need from our quarterback.”
There were many criticisms of former Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland from fans in South Florida. Many point to his spotty record signing free agents, questionable trades and personality fallouts behind the scenes with two head coaches (Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin). All points are valid.

But one thing Ireland probably did not get enough credit for during his tenure in Miami was his ability to find talent in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Players such as tight end Charles Clay (sixth round), safety Reshad Jones (fifth round) and receiver Brian Hartline (fourth round) are terrific examples of hidden gems Ireland found in the later rounds and became part of the Dolphins' foundation.

With that in mind, here is a little known fact: Miami's seventh-round picks have made the 53-man roster four straight years. Linebacker Austin Spitler (2010), safety Jimmy Wilson (2011), receiver Rishard Matthews (2012) and safety Don Jones (2013) all made the team as rookies. Wilson, Matthews and Jones are still part of the team and have roles as backups or on special teams.

Can rookie defensive end Terrence Fede keep the streak alive? The rookie from Marist is the first seventh-round pick for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey.

Fede is raw, but he has good size and athleticism. I have been particularly impressed with how well Fede moves for a player his size. However, it is too premature to accurately gauge his chances to make Miami’s 53-man roster until the pads come on in training camp.

Going against Fede is the fact that he’s trying to make the Dolphins in arguably the deepest area of their roster. Miami already has stalwarts at defensive end, such as Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan and valuable backup Derrick Shelby. The Dolphins are already four deep at defensive end. At the very least, Fede would be fifth on the depth chart.

Time will tell if Fede can extend Miami’s seventh-round streak to five years. The practice squad also is an option for Fede if he cannot make the 53-man roster later this summer.
With the 2014 offseason officially in the books, it’s time to look ahead to training camp and games being played in the exhibition and regular season.

Clay
This week ESPN.com’s Dolphins blog is taking a look at Miami’s best bargains. Next up we have the Dolphins’ most productive tight end.

Bargain player: TE Charles Clay

2013 stats: 69 receptions, 759 yards, six TDs

2014 salary: $1.431 million

Analysis: Clay began training camp in 2013 as a fullback/tight end hybrid. He also was the backup to Dustin Keller. But a season-ending knee injury to Keller in the preseason opened the door for Clay to get more playing time and he took advantage. Clay was a steady force for the Dolphins that teams had to pay attention to. Clay had more touchdown receptions (six) than star receivers Brian Hartline (four) and Mike Wallace (five) last season. Clay is expected to be more improved in his second full season as a starter, which makes his $1.431 million salary modest for his level of production.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Monday from around the Web:
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald discusses the various concerns for the Dolphins heading into the season.
Morning take: Miami certainly has flaws. The key for the Dolphins will be to mask and minimize those flaws while also staying healthy.
  • Andy Behrens of Yahoo!Sports reports the Dolphins don’t have much fantasy football value.
Morning take: The Dolphins didn’t rank well statistically on offense or defense last year. Therefore, it’s no surprise.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel lists Dolphins tight end Charles Clay as one of his offseason stars.
Morning take: Clay, similar to last year, was one of Miami’s steadiest players this offseason. He looks ready to build off a good year.
  • NFL.com’s Elliot Harrison ranked former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino as the greatest AFC player of the 1980s.
Morning take: Other 80s greats such as Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor played in the NFC. Marino’s Hall of Fame career spanned throughout a dominant run in the AFC.
Most of the time we dissect the Xs and Os and latest news with your favorite team. But occasionally there are good times to mix in fantasy football – and this is one of those times.

The 2014 season is about to get under way when training camps start at the end of July. That also means fantasy drafts will be plentiful.

Here is some advice on who to select and who to avoid for the Dolphins:

Tannehill
1. QB Ryan Tannehill

2013 stats: 3,913 yards, 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions

Analysis: Tannehill is a complete wild card this year in fantasy drafts. Some believe he’s just not a franchise quarterback based on his 15-17 career record. Some believe Tannehill was held back last year by a poor offensive line and questionable play-calling. Both things should be better this year, which naturally means Tannehill has a better chance to put up numbers. New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is bringing an up-tempo style to Miami that will be fast-paced and put a lot of pressure on the defense. The offensive line also is improved with the additions of Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, free-agent pickup Shelley Smith and first-round pick Ja’Wuan James.

Fantasy advice: Tannehill is not a top pick. But he could be a good sleeper if he picks up Lazor’s offense quickly. Pick your dependable franchise quarterback first. Then, it may be worth taking a flier on Tannehill as a backup fantasy quarterback in the later rounds.

Wallace
Wallace
2. WR Mike Wallace

2013 stats: 73 receptions, 930 yards, five TDs

Analysis: Despite not being used properly and missing on several big opportunities, Wallace still put up fairly decent numbers. If Wallace and Tannehill would have connected on half of their missed long balls last season, Wallace could have easily added 300 more yards and three or four touchdowns. It is vital for Tannehill and Wallace to leave nothing on the field this year. Lazor also is using Wallace in various positions so defenses won’t key on him. If all goes well, Wallace could put up DeSean Jackson-like numbers.

Fantasy advice: There are reasons to be confident in Wallace's fantasy value in his second year in Miami. However, the tricky part of playing receiver is you need everything else to go well. Will the offensive line come together quickly and give Wallace enough time to get downfield? Will Tannehill throw a better deep ball? These are unknowns. Still, Wallace would be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy receiver on most teams. He should get over 1,000 yards if he stays healthy.

Clay
3. TE Charles Clay

2013 stats: 69 receptions, 759 yards, six touchdowns

Analysis: Clay was a nice surprise in fantasy football last year. He started training camp as a “tweener” fullback and tight end. Then, Dustin Keller’s season-ending knee injury in the preseason made Clay a full-time starter at tight end and his production took off. Clay led the Dolphins with six touchdown receptions.

Fantasy advice: Clay still has sleeper value in 2014. Not everyone is on to him as a household name at tight end. Don’t overdraft Clay as a Dolphin fan. Wait until the later rounds where a steady producer like Clay can offer some real value.

Miller
4. RB Lamar Miller

2013 stats: 709 rushing yards, two touchdowns

Analysis: Some fantasy owners thought Miller had the potential to be a big sleeper last season. But Miller struggled in his first full year as a starter. He didn’t have the explosive plays the Dolphins were hoping four and only rushed for two touchdowns. The Dolphins signed veteran tailback Knowshon Moreno to push Miller and possibly take Miller’s job this season.

Fantasy advice: With Moreno and Miller competing this summer, neither player offers much fantasy value. There is no way of knowing who will start until the end of the preseason. I would look at other options at running back.

5. Dolphins defense

2013 stats: Ranking 24th vs. run, 16 vs. pass

Analysis: The Dolphins were a hard bunch to gauge on defense. Several statistics point out Miami’s defense was mediocre. But there were a few areas, such as points per game, where the Dolphins did well and kept the team in the hunt all season. Miami’s offense rarely did its defense any favors. This is a group that at times wore down in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins’ defense must do better late in games.

Fantasy value: I expect the Dolphins’ defense to perform better statistically in 2014. But there are plenty of safer defenses to choose from.

Scouts Inc. on TE Arthur Lynch

May, 17, 2014
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ESPN.com's Miami Dolphins page continues its series on providing scouting reports for their 2014 rookie class. On Friday we take a look at Dolphins fifth-round pick and tight end Arthur Lynch, who will try to earn a spot on the 53-man roster as a backup to starter Charles Clay.

Here is Lynch's scouting report, according to Scouts Inc.:
“Zone buster at best locating and settling into pockets. Physical route runner that can create separation with hands. Attacks defender, pivots and posts up. Flashes some savvy at the top of stem and adequate job of setting up breaks but not quick enough to consistently separate from man coverage. Takes too long to transition in and out of breaks. ... Doesn't have second gear to run away from coverage or pursuit after the catch but fast enough to get down the seam. Not a homerun threat but can produce after the catch. Flashes ability to make first defender miss and pick up yards after contact.”

Lynch will join a crowded tight end group that includes Clay and backups Dion Sims and Michael Egnew. Clay is a lock and Sims, a 2013 draft pick, has a solid chance to make the team.

It could come down to Lynch and Egnew for the No. 3 tight-end spot. Egnew has been a bust as a former 2012 third-round pick. He played some fullback last year but showed little as a receiving threat. If Lynch can block and proves to be a more reliable receiver, he can make the team as a rookie.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Friday from around the Web:
  • Is Dolphins tight end Charles Clay better than cornerback Brent Grimes? Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel says no way.
Morning take: I have to agree. But the NFL Network’s player survey ranks Clay ahead of Grimes. It’s a flawed voting in this case.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins’ third-round pick Billy Turner must be a guard at the NFL level.
Morning take: Or at least with the Dolphins. Miami has enough tackles but not enough quality starting guards. If Turner can fill one of those roles, the Dolphins will be in good shape.
  • The Dolphins site reports the team added receiver Stephen Williams and defensive back Demetrius Wright.
Morning take: These are two more players with a long shot to make the roster.
  • DJ Siddiqi of Rant Sports wonders if the Dolphins should sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma?
Morning take: Vilma is a University of Miami alum who could add stability to the Dolphins’ linebacker group. But the Dolphins are more likely to sit tight for now with what they have.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • NFL.com examines whether Dolphins tight end Charles Clay deserves his No. 89 ranking in the NFL 100.
Morning take: This was voted on by the players, and they are definitely entitled to their opinion. But Clay was ranked ahead of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, which is questionable.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel says there is nothing wrong with Dolphins rookies having a chip on their shoulders.
Morning take: Miami has five draft picks from small colleges. That means a majority of its draft class has a lot to prove. It remains to be seen how NFL-ready this group will be.
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald writes Dolphins rookies began community work.
Morning take: This is a good start for Miami's rookie class. Character in the locker room needs to be a major focus in 2014.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post takes a look at the possibility of the Dolphins acquiring Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson.
Morning take: Johnson talks as though he is on the outs. He has a big cap number on a rebuilding team. However, Miami doesn’t have a need for another receiver, despite the fact Johnson grew up in Miami and attended the University of Miami.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Thursday from around the Web:
  • Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports former Auburn tailback Tre Mason could be an option for the Dolphins.
Morning take: Miami signed veteran Knowshon Moreno in free agency to be the starter. But that does not mean the Dolphins won't look to draft a running back sometime after the first round.
  • Chris Perkins of the Sun Sentinel writes new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has mixed reviews for his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Morning take: Hickey has some hits and some misses with the Buccaneers. But it's hard to tell when Hickey wasn't in charge calling the shots.
  • Dolphins tight end Charles Clay tells the Dolphins team site he's excited about the possibilities on offense.
Morning take: Clay had a breakout year in 2013, and he could be a major weapon in Bill Lazor's new offense. Clay must stay healthy because there isn't proven depth behind him.
  • Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post examines whether former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray makes sense for the Dolphins.
Morning take: The Dolphins are not looking for a quarterback this year. But that doesn't mean the team wouldn't take a late-round flier on a quarterback who could compete for the No. 3 job.
The NFL draft is coming up in a few weeks and all the talk with the Miami Dolphins is focused on the offensive line. But Miami cannot draft an offensive lineman with all seven picks. The Dolphins also will look to fill other needs.

That leads to our latest poll question: What is Miami’s second-largest need heading into the draft?

SportsNation

Besides offensive line, what is the Dolphins' next-biggest need?

  •  
    56%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,700)

The Dolphins (8-8) collapsed down to the stretch and missed the playoffs for the fifth-consecutive season. Miami needs quality depth and impact players at more positions in order to get over the hump.

Do the Dolphins need another linebacker? Starters Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler all received long-term extensions last year. Yet, this group was a major disappointment as Miami finished 24th in stopping the run. Would a player like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley make a difference?

Or does Miami need more help at safety? Reshad Jones is coming off a down year and free-agent pickup Louis Delmas is injury-prone. Should the Dolphins use their No. 19 overall pick to for safety insurance?

What about other positions such as cornerback and tight end? The Dolphins have quality veterans at those positions, such as Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and tight end Charles Clay. But these are positions where it’s always beneficial to have as many talented players as possible.

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on Miami’s second biggest need. You can share your thoughts in the comment section below or send a message via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Wednesday from around the web: Morning take: Fair or not, 2014 could be a make-or-break year for Tannehill. Not many quarterbacks get four years in the NFL to prove they are the long-term solution.
  • Andy Cohen of the Dolphins team site takes a look at general manager Dennis Hickey's use of technology.
Morning take: Football will still come down to running, blocking, tackling, etc. But any use of advance technology could provide a slight advantage.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel doesn't believe tight end is a position of need for the Dolphins.
Morning take: Miami has a proven starter in Charles Clay, but the depth behind Clay isn't strong. This shouldn't be a position to address in the first round.
  • Cody Straham of Rant Sports writes the Dolphins could look at receivers early in the draft.
Morning take: The Dolphins are not expected to take a receiver in the first round, but anything is possible beyond that. It's easier to stick to best available player after the first round.
Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Friday from around the Web:
  • The Dolphins team site examines the possibility of former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to Miami.
Morning take: The Dolphins own the No. 19 overall pick, which makes things unpredictable. Miami has a solid tight end in Charles Clay. The Dolphins should take another position.
  • Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel reports former Florida State tailback Devonta Freeman will work out for the Dolphins Friday.
Morning take: Miami signed projected starting running back Knowshon Moreno in free agency. But the Dolphins haven’t stopped looking at other options. Miami could still add another tailback in the middle rounds of the draft.
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes Alex Mack’s contract will impact Dolphins center Mike Pouncey.
Morning take: Pouncey is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Dolphins most likely will pick up his option and may not talk extension for two more seasons.
  • Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post writes the Dolphins should hire Dan Marino.
Morning take: This has been debated in South Florida for quite some time. The Dolphins have their key football positions filled, and Marino probably doesn’t want to be a figurehead.
Every year there is a player who comes out of nowhere to have a solid season. For the Miami Dolphins, tight end Charles Clay surprised media, fans and even the coaching staff with a career year in 2013.

SportsNation

Who is the Dolphins' top sleeper candidate for 2014?

  •  
    11%
  •  
    16%
  •  
    30%
  •  
    26%
  •  
    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,466)

That leads into the latest "Poll Friday" question: Who is Miami's top sleeper candidate for 2014? The Dolphins have several interesting players capable of having a career year.

Will it be running back Lamar Miller? He floundered last season amid high expectations. Miller failed as a full-time starter for the first time in his career and rushed for 709 yards and two touchdowns. Miller didn’t get much blocking up front last season. Could he be due for a 1,000-yard season?

Will it be new safety Louis Delmas? Miami’s free-agent pickup is joining a new secondary after playing last season for the Detroit Lions. Delmas is a big hitter with a history of injuries. Can he stay healthy and have a big year in Miami?

What about second-year cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis? The 2013 draft picks suffered through injuries that kept them off the field. Taylor and Davis will both have a chance to compete for a starting job opposite Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes. Will one of Miami’s young corners step up?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on the Dolphins' top sleeper candidate for 2014. You can share your thoughts below or send a comment via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 9-12

February, 14, 2014
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We continue our rankings of the top 40 players on the Miami Dolphins.

Next up, we take a look at Nos. 9-12.

No. 12: Dannell Ellerbe

Position: Linebacker

2013 stats: 101 tackles, one sack, two INTs

Analysis: Ellerbe led Miami in tackles. But it was mostly an underwhelming year for the Dolphins’ prized free agent. Ellerbe had a tough transition playing middle linebacker of a 4-3 defense. He didn’t make many big plays and the Dolphins were ranked 24th against the run.

No. 11: Randy Starks

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 stats: 49 tackles, four sacks

Analysis: Starks was part of the three-man rotation at defensive tackle with teammates Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick. Starks made the most splash plays of the three, but the run defense struggled overall. Starks had a good run in Miami and still has something left in the tank. But he will be an unrestricted free agent in March and may not return to Miami.

No. 10: Paul Soliai

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 stats: 34 tackles, one sack

Analysis: Similar to Starks, Soliai is an unrestricted free agent and may not return to Miami. The Dolphins will try to keep one of the two defensive tackles. Soliai is the better run stuffer of the two and is hard to move in the middle. But Soliai is not a natural pass-rusher. The Soliai-Starks dilemma will present a tough decision for Miami first-year general manager Dennis Hickey.

No. 9: Charles Clay

Position: Tight end

2013 stats: 69 receptions, 759 yards, six touchdowns

Analysis: Clay was one of Miami’s biggest success stories of 2013. He began training camp as a backup to Dustin Keller. But a season-ending knee injury to Keller opened the door for Clay, and he took advantage. Clay was third on the team in receptions and became a dependable option for Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Clay is entering the final year of his rookie contract and on his way to proving he should be part of Miami’s long-term plans.

Three Dolphins who deserve a raise

February, 8, 2014
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Despite last year’s free-agent spending spree, the Miami Dolphins will have plenty of cap room to spend again in 2014. The Dolphins have more than 20 restricted and unrestricted free agents who come off the books. But that also means there are big decisions upcoming for first-year general manager Dennis Hickey.

One dilemma will be figuring out which players already under contract deserve a raise this offseason. ESPN.com’s Dolphins page did some legwork to find three Miami players who have outperformed their current contracts.

1. Mike Pouncey, center

2014 salary: $1.638 million

Analysis: Miami’s 2011 first-round pick is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract. Pouncey made his first Pro Bowl in 2013, but he’s played at a Pro Bowl level the past two seasons. The Dolphins currently have Pouncey at a bargain for two more years. Top interior linemen often get paid around $5-7 million per season. It remains to be seen if Miami will go to the negotiating table with Pouncey to provide a raise this offseason or try to wait another year. But he’s definitely outperformed his current salary.

2. Charles Clay, tight end

2014 salary: $645,000

Analysis: Clay is another player who significantly outperformed his contract. The 2011 sixth-round pick is entering the final year of his rookie agreement. Clay was a major surprise for the Dolphins in 2013. He replaced injured starting tight end Dustin Keller (knee) and set new career highs in receptions (69), yards (759) and touchdowns (six). A $645,000 salary is small for that level of production. Clay has a good rapport with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and an extension would make him a part of the team's long-term plans.

3. Jared Odrick, defensive lineman

2014 salary: $865,000

Analysis: Odrick, a 2010 first-round pick, is in a contract year and would prefer long-term security. Odrick had a solid 2013 with 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks while rotating with fellow defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. Both Soliai and Starks are unrestricted free agents, which also raises Odrick's value. Odrick is a versatile player who can play every position on the defensive line. He is also a hard worker and a quality locker room guy.

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