The offer sheet the Bills presented to Charles Clay this past spring raised eyebrows. Not many in the NFL valued the tight end's potential to be a difference maker in a passing game the way the Bills did. There were some outside observers that even snickered that Buffalo overpaid to land Clay as an offensive addition. After just three games in a Buffalo uniform no one is debating Clay's value now.
Clay, who came into Sunday's game at Miami with seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, almost doubled that output in Buffalo's Week 3 victory alone. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman made him an early focal point in the game plan against the Dolphins as he had Tyrod Taylor throwing on the first five plays of their opening scoring drive.
Three of those passes went to Clay, including a 25-yard catch and run in which he eluded three would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone for a touchdown.
"It was big," Clay said. "Anytime your number is called and you get that chance to make a play for your team… I go out every day and prove that I can be dependable to my teammates. To call my number three times, that says a lot."
"Like he said after the game he didn't know where the jukes came from, but he definitely has them in his game," said Taylor chuckling.
Clay has that and a whole lot more. A natural mismatch when detached from the formation, Taylor opened the first offensive series with a nine-yard pass to the left to Clay. He promptly went right back to Clay for a 24-yard pickup on the next play from scrimmage, which moved Buffalo into Miami territory.
"I'm definitely confident in the mismatches he's going to receive or the matchups he's going to get throughout the year," said Taylor. "You get a guy like that who is very talented at the tight end position who is going against linebackers and we like those matchups and the moves that he made once he got the football."
Three plays later Taylor found Clay on a delayed release play and the tight end did the rest from there to score.
"It was a play where I was kind of blocking or showing that I was blocking first and then ran a shallow route and Tyrod did a good job of buying time and kind of waiting," said Clay. "It took a little longer to make the play and he delivered the ball and at that point I was just trying to make a play."
"He's actually one in that progression," said Taylor. "It's something that we've been working on just to sell the hard play action and get him out the back door. He did a good job of selling it and getting into the open space."
Clay then outran the Miami LB Koa Misi as he turned up field, broke through an arm tackle of S Mike Thomas and then juked CB Brice McCain just before reaching the goal line for the touchdown.
It may have been viewed by some as redemption for Clay against his former team, who chose not to match the Bills offer sheet to retain him. For Clay the victory was important, but there were no hard feelings.
"It's always good when you get a chance to come back and play your former team and see those guys, so many familiar faces," he said. "To get a chance to go against them and then to come out on top is a great feeling. At the same time it's just one win, so you can't get too high on yourself. You've got to come back next week and play another game."
On the team's second touchdown drive, Clay contributed a 12-yard play to convert a 3rd-and-10 and on a field goal drive late in the half he had another 12-yard catch to move the chains on a 2nd-and-11 situation.
"Well, again, that's part of that mismatch that you have with a guy who can do it all," said head coach Rex Ryan. "He's outstanding as a blocker, an outstanding receiver. You have matchup issues when you're trying to play man [coverage] against him. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] did a great job, and Tyrod did a great job of finding him."
Clay didn't catch a pass in the second half. He was targeted only once, but the damage had already been done. And as far as the humble tight end is concerned he's just ready to execute his role in whatever capacity he asked to fill.
"I'm not going to complain at all," he said. "When you're winning football games, whether they want me blocking all game or catching passes I'm all for it. We'll just keep going out there and keep executing and go from there."
Photos of all the action from week 3: Dolphins vs. Bills.