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Charles Clay gets Patriots' defensive attention

Posted by Mike Whitmer, Globe Staff  December 11, 2013 02:46 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- Dolphins tight end Charles Clay has just one 100-yard receiving game this season, but he's averaging six catches per contest over the past month, and scored three touchdowns in that span.

Picked in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Clay is quickly developing a solid working relationship with second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and is explosive enough to get the full attention of the Patriots' defense.

"He can block in the running game, he definitely presents challenges in the passing game, as well. He can line up in multiple positions, he has speed, he has size, he’s very athletic, has good hands," safety Steve Gregory said. "He’s a guy we’ll definitely have to be aware of, he’s a guy who can make plays for them, he’s kind of been a go-to guy for them coming down the stretch."

Clay caught seven passes in each of Miami's last two games, for 80 yards against the Jets, and 97 yards (plus two touchdowns) in last week's win at Pittsburgh.

As impressive as his pass-catching numbers have been, Clay's work on the Dolphins' run game has stood out to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"Probably the one thing that’s impressed me the most about Clay – we know he has a lot of playmaking ability, he’s fast, he’s very good with the ball in his hands after the catch – I’d say the thing that’s impressed me the most about him is his blocking. He really competes hard as a blocker," Belichick said. "He’s been matched up against defensive ends numerous times in the running game, guys like Charles Johnson from Carolina and guys like that, and he blocks them. He competes well with them. He’s definitely not afraid to stick his nose in there and be tough and competitive.

"I think he’s really a lot more than a receiving tight end. He’s a guy that’s a playmaker that helps them in the running game too."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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