- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. – It was not a stellar showing for the tight ends of the Miami Dolphins last weekend. Following the season-ending knee injury to Dustin Keller, Miami got just three receptions for 34 yards in a 17-16 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
New Miami starter Charles Clay caught just one pass for five yards. He was targeted by Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill six times, and the two couldn’t get on the same page. At least two attempted connections resulted in tipped balls that nearly turned into turnovers.
"It’s never a thing you want to put on film, having a game like that," Clay admitted this week. "But at the end of the day, it happened. I just have to come out here and work hard and do all that I can to prevent it from happening again."
Clay knows improvement is needed. The next step in his development starts Thursday in Miami’s preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints.
Clay is the most versatile and experienced tight end for the Dolphins. That is why he’s getting the first shot to replace Keller. Other tight ends such as Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and rookie Dion Sims don't have the same level of experience or trust of the coaching staff. Clay, Egnew and Sims are all recent draft picks of Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
Miami initially used Clay as an H-back/fullback in training camp. But those plans were altered once Keller went down. Clay is being used more at tight end, and it's taking time to re-adjust to that role.
“It’s wherever they [Miami’s coaches] need me,” Clay said. “If they need someone to play tight end, I feel I can do that. If they someone to help out in the slot or at fullback, I feel I can do that. Whatever the game is that week, I feel like I can help.”
It’s unlikely any of Miami’s tight ends will match the production Keller would have provided this season. But the Dolphins must hope the group as a whole can be productive enough to keep the passing offense moving in a good direction.