All-22: Charles Clay Shows His Versatility

Charles Clay is a big play threat as a pass catcher. He's also a terrific blocker in the run game. Put it together and Buffalo will be getting a versatile tight end for their offense.

In 2014, Charles Clay dealt with knee and hamstring injuries throughout the season. Despite battling these nagging injuries, Clay finished the season with 58 receptions for 605 yards and three touchdowns. His stats may have been down from 2013, but Clay was still an effective receiver.

The Buffalo Bills were very familiar with Clay. In the last two seasons, Clay caught 17 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in four games. The stats themselves may not seem like much, but the Bills know that Clay is more than just a receiver. Clay is also a terrific blocker. While there are many question marks about Buffalo’s actual offensive line, players like Clay and Jerome Felton should help the run game significantly.

To get an idea of what Clay brings to the table, I looked at his Week 16 performance against the Minnesota Vikings. During the game Clay had six receptions for 114 yards, but he did a lot more than just catch passes in this game. Clay made many effective blocks in the run game and had a savvy play that led to a Mike Wallace touchdown.

Here’s a small sampling of what Clay will bring to the Bills as a receiver and blocker.

Clay The Receiver

Play 1: 33 yard reception

Clay’s first reception was a terrific design by the Miami Dolphins. Miami runs a play-action pass and Clay runs towards the middle of the field. His movement actually moves the safety up higher on the field. At the bottom of the screen, Brian Hartline runs a route that leads him right towards Clay. As soon as Hartline passes him, Clay rolls to his left and has no one in his vicinity. Tannehill finds Clay and the tight end passes midfield before he’s tackled by safety Andrew Sendejo.

Play 2: 41 yard reception

On this play, Clay gets one-on-one coverage with cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Clay is able to get to the inside of Munnerlyn and Tannehill hits Clay with a near-perfect strike. At the end of the play, Clay shows why he’s a mismatch against cornerbacks as Munnerlyn struggled to bring Clay down to the turf.

Clay is too fast for linebackers and too strong for cornerbacks. It’s what makes Clay such a dangerous receiver.

Play 3: 11 yard reception

In the red zone, Buffalo will be able to use Clay in a variety of ways. On this play, Clay looks as though he’ll be blocking, but he lets the defender run by him. Clay then curls to the outside where he has space to turn up field. Gerald Hodges is able to run Clay down and knock the tight end out at the three yard line.

Tannehill throws a pass to Clay on the next play that is slightly off target or else Clay most likely picks up a three yard touchdown.

Play 4: 22 yard reception

With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Miami found themselves down 35-28. On the first play of their drive, Ryan Tannehill found Clay for a 22 yard reception. The play itself shows Tannehill avoid pressure and roll to his left. Clay, who was sitting in the middle of the field, recognized that his quarterback was under pressure and rolled in the same direction. In doing so, Clay once again found himself wide open. He picked up 22 yards on the play before being tackled by Robert Blanton.

Of his six receptions on the day, three went for more than 20 yards. As a receiver, Clay is a big play threat.

Clay the Blocker

Clay is very impressive as a receiver, but I came away more impressed with his blocking ability. Here’s a look at some of Clay’s blocks throughout the game.

Block 1: Results in 12 yard Lamar Miller run

Clay finds himself lined up on the left side with Everson Griffen on the play. The tight end knocks Griffen back and tackle Ja’Wuan James comes over and pushes Griffen outside. It looks as though Griffen will still get a shot at tackling Miller, but Clay comes back, blocks Griffen and seals the edge so Miller can take the run outside.

Block 2: Results in 5 yard gain

Clay’s block on this play doesn’t result in a big gain for the Dolphins offense, but it’s still a terrific job by the tight end. Clay is in motion on the play and runs to the right side of the offensive line at the snap. The play is designed to go in this direction, but Clay’s job is to run back to the left side of the offense and take out the defensive end. Clay runs towards Griffen and knocks him down with a solid chop block.  

Block 3: Results in a 12 yard gain for Damien Williams

Clay is lined up on the right side of the offensive line on his play. When the ball is snapped, Clay lowers his shoulder of Scott Crichton and get to the second level where he blocks Brandon Watts out of the play. Williams is able to take the run to the outside on the play.

LeSean McCoy and Buffalo’s running backs will enjoy having Clay block for them. He’ll help open things up for the backs and help them pick up big chunks of yards.

Savvy Route: Results in Mike Wallace touchdown

Clay is matched up with Gerald Hodges on the play and he runs right at the linebacker. The tight end makes minimal contact with Hodges, but he moves Hodges out just enough for Wallace to come underneath and catch a seven yard touchdown pass from Tannehill.

Clay did enough on the play to open things up for Wallace without setting an illegal pick.

The Bills made signing Clay one of their top priorities in the offseason and it’s easy to see why after watching just one game. He’s the most versatile threat the Bills have had at the position in years and Buffalo will be sure to utilize his skill-set in 2015.

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