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Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay was more good than bad in 2017

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Our review of 2017 continues with one Charles Clay who flashed moments of brilliance and did some other stuff too

Charles Clay was brought to Buffalo in 2015 after the Bills played some transition tag contract hijinks ensuring the Miami Dolphins couldn’t match their offer. Clay and that contract led to high expectations for a team looking to reinvigorate a position that featured Scott Chandler as their big-time threat for four years.

Clay’s tenure in Buffalo has been marked with a few concerns that all revolve around consistency. Playing in 41 of 49 possible games (starting all games played), Clay hasn’t precisely missed a ton of time. But it’s enough to notice. Additionally, lingering knee issues put him on limited or “rest day” lists often enough that his name might be mistaken for part of the letterhead. This has led to accusations that he hasn’t built sufficient rapport with his team and QB to realize his potential.

Play 1

Disclaimer: I really, really like what Clay can do, which makes things even more infuriating when he’s this definition of the word “bad.” This is not a mismatch on paper. This is not more than Clay can handle. He just doesn’t get it done here. This was by far the worst block I saw, but it’s not unheard of for Clay to be overwhelmed.

This play pauses twice, both times to show you how well this play was designed and how good of a call it was. On the first pause, Kelvin Benjamin is coming free over the middle (Tyrod Taylor’s best area of the field this year). The ball should be thrown at the time it’s paused but Clay is beaten so quickly Taylor is already forced to run. Taylor was looking Benjamin’s way the entire time, too.

At the second pause, Clay is circled and on the ground. I’m comfortable labeling this as “not so good.” We also have the route DiMarco is forced to take highlighted as well as that of Benjamin. DiMarco’s route is a dump off short of the sticks. Now compare it to the daylight of Kelvin Benjamin if he had the ball in his hands.

Play 2

Flip that emotional switch because you’re about to love Clay and see him live up to the other definition of “bad.” Clay is circled, and the lane he’s supposed to help open up is shown with a red line. The only thing he needs to do is make sure there’s enough room for LeSean McCoy in that lane. At the end of the block, Clay and his opponent (Lawrence Timmons for the record) are circled and the line is drawn again. Everyone else does their job, Clay is dominant and this is as easy as it gets for Shady.

Play 3

Short and sweet regarding Clay with this snap. He does his job well and isn’t remotely the reason this play fails. All he needs to do is maintain the gap between himself and Richie Incognito. From there, Patrick DiMarco can jump through to block for Shady who will also use the Clay/Incognito lane. Clay actually widens the gap and earns a victory here.

Right at the start the arrow points to the first problem. Jordan Phillips is lined up outside Richie Incognito. This forces Incognito to slide left and shrink that all-important gap. DiMarco gets through clean in an Indiana Jones-esque jump. By the time Shady is there, Phillips is in the way which causes Shady to turn around. Also highlighted; Eric Wood is cleanly beat, which allows his man to shut it down even if Shady got through. Basically, this is the wrong play.

Play 4

Teams universally make sure to account for Clay as a receiving threat and this is why. Clay runs a nice route here especially in consideration of his 245-lb frame. The safety sees the cut to the outside and starts sprinting in a somewhat obvious “oh crap” fashion. Just so we’re clear here though, neither defender had a shot here and this should have been an easy-six.

Play 5

This play doesn’t look like much, but there’s lot to like about Clay the receiving threat. That’s a pretty sharp cut he makes to bring it inside and makes the corner look downright foolish. Clay has to hesitate and catch a pretty decent rocket from Taylor. He accelerates well after making a moderately tough catch. From there, he shows good vision with a subtle angle that lets him find a lane. Only a heads up play from the lineman here prevents better YAC.

Further thoughts

The low volume passing offense makes it hard to hold Charles Clay accountable uing volume stats. If you’re interested, he had 558 yards on 49 catches which isn’t awful, but also not the numbers of a star player. His 11.4 yards per reception can be more fairly assessed across the league and is definitely respectable beating out some big names like Jarvis Landry and Jimmy Graham. His 66% catch rate is nothing to write home about, but I’m sure there’s a “quality of QB” argument to be had here.

Clay’s injury concerns are valid. While he’s managed to tough it out and play the majority of games in a Bills uniform, the decreased practice time could be a contributing factor in his inconsistency.

Decision Time

Nothing during the review suggested that he’s not giving it his best. A few drops, a few bad blocks, and his bad plays are all the more frustrating when you see him wrecking people. Sometimes on back-to-back snaps.

Assuming we’re not worried about anything other than performance on the field, Charles Clay is a guy you keep. His knee issues mean he’s a week-to-week roll of the dice. A sprinkling of cringe-worthy plays also mean you can’t ever feel fully confident when he’s in. That said, he turns in more good plays than bad ones and at times turns into the baddest player on the field.