5 Reasons Why Charles Clay Could Have a Breakout Season in 2012

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2012

5 Reasons Why Charles Clay Could Have a Breakout Season in 2012

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    Charles Clay is not a name most NFL fans have heard before. But after this season, that could very well change. The Miami Dolphins' fullback/tight end has the potential to surprise a lot of people in 2012.

    Clay was drafted by the Dolphins in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He played football at Tulsa, where he lined up at both fullback and tight end for the Golden Hurricanes.

    Here are just a few of the reasons why Clay could have a much bigger season than anyone expects.  

Increased Confidence

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    The first, and perhaps biggest reason I think Clay will have a great year is the fact that he now has a season of NFL experience under his belt. Coming in as a rookie sixth-round pick, a player is nervous just about making the team and then getting a little time on the field.

    In this interview with the Finsiders, Clay talks about how he's gelled with the guys on the team and how excited he is to get back to work in minicamp. Without the pressures of being a low-round rookie, Clay should be more comfortable and productive during minicamp and the preseason.  

    Also in that interview, it is obvious that Clay has a good head on his shoulders. One year can make a big difference for a 23-year-old, both on and off the field. 

Size and Athleticism

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    Clay is listed at 6'3", 245 lbs and runs a 4.69 40-yard dash, which makes him a difficult matchup for both defensive backs and linebackers. He is too big and strong for a cornerback to mark him, but can outrun many linebackers, especially interior linebackers. 

    He averaged 14.6 yards per reception last year, and had catches of 30 and 46 yards, so he's shown that he can be more dynamic than he appears.

    Hopefully in the new West Coast offense, Clay will get lined up against linebackers and beat them down the field. If he can get into the open field, defensive backs will have a hard time bringing him down and he should have some big plays.  

Versatility in a New Offense

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    Although Clay has been called a "man without a position", the fact that he can line up at multiple positions makes him an asset to Joe Philbin.

    In Philbin's new West Coast offense, flexibility is key. Receivers have to be able to line up on the outside and in the slot, and both running backs and tight ends are relied on to catch passes as well. 

    Clay played mostly in the backfield for the Dolphins last year, but he lined up at tight end often during his college career. He even took some snaps as Tulsa's quarterback in the wildcat formation. Look for him to be spread out all over the field this year in an attempt to confuse defenses.

Shown Promise Already

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    At Tulsa, Clay was extremely productive. As a senior in 2010, he had 43 catches for 526 yards and seven touchdowns. He also rushed for 226 yards and had an impressive 6.6 YPC average. 

    As a junior in 2009, his stats were also very good. He had 530 receiving yards, 236 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns. Even as a sophomore, he put up 464 receiving yards with nine touchdown catches and rushed for 145 yards.

    As a rookie for Miami, Clay played in 14 games, starting only nine, but had solid numbers. In those 14 games, he caught 16 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns.   

Lack of Other Options

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    Frankly, Clay could have a big year because nobody else on the Dolphins will. Other than Reggie Bush, the Dolphins don't have any weapons on offense. Miami's lack of offensive talent, however, should give Clay more opportunities.

    Last year, Brandon Marshall took a lot of the targets away from other receivers. But Marshall is playing for Chicago now, and the Dolphins' wide receiver corps is one of the weakest in the NFL. 

    Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, Legedu Naanee, and an aging Chad Johnson are unspectacular at best, and if Clay has a couple big games, he could become a top target. If Clay and Miami's quarterback (whoever that ends up being) can develop some chemistry early on, there is no telling how good Clay may be.