By Jeremiah Thermidor
Dolphins tight end Charles Clay fits the true definition of a dark horse. The second-year star out of Tulsa has shown spurts of great playmaking ability but hasn’t been targeted enough for him to display what he’s truly capable of doing on a consistent basis. Clay has caught 15 of 29 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns this season.
What’s very interesting is during the past two games he has put forth almost flawless performances, catching 6 of 6 passes thrown his way for 84 yards and a touchdown in Week 12’s matchup against Seattle and raking in two of three receptions for 26 yards in last Sunday’s loss to New England. The 23-year-old has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the league but the coaching staff would definitely need to design more plays so he gets more passes thrown his way.
As the Dolphins try to stay alive in their fight of trying to claim a wildcard spot, Clay’s value to the team has certainly risen, considering the way he’s playing at this juncture in the season. So, the team will need him at full strength, especially against a 49ers squad which has the third best receiving defense in the league. For the past few days, Clay has been dealing with an injury to his ribs. He was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but participated in Friday’s full practice session. Clay is one of seven Miami players listed as probable for Sunday’s game against San Francisco. The other players include linebacker Karlos Dansby (Bicep), tight end Anthony Fasano (Hip), punter Brandon Fields (Knees), fullback Jorvorskie Lane (Knee), linebacker Koa Misi (Finger) and linebacker Austin Spitler (Ankle).
Miami has no players listed as out or doubtful for the matchup. The Dolphins do, however, have one player listed as questionable. Second-year safety Jimmy Wilson is questionable with a hip injury. He did not participate in practice at all on Wednesday and he was limited on Thursday. He actually left practice on Friday, so, the chances of him playing are slim, but it will likely be a game time decision whether he gets on the field this weekend.
It has already been widely reported that starting left tackle Jake Long will miss the rest of the season after suffering torn triceps last Sunday. Miami’s offensive line has struggled this season and Long was partly to blame, so, his absence won’t hurt the Dolphins too much. The problem is Long’s spot at left tackle is being filled by a rookie in Jonathan Martin – a fact which has gotten the attention of San Francisco star linebacker Aldon Smith.
Smith is chasing former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season record for sacks which currently stands at 22 and a half. Smith currently has 17.5, so he only needs five more to tie and six to surpass it. Smith views Martin blocking him in place of Long as an opportunity to exploit the rookie and break through the offensive line a few times in hopes of setting a new record. “ I’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity,” Smith said.
Smith, who was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder injury, is one of 10 San Francisco players listed as probable for this weekend’s matchup. The other players include kicker David Akers (Pelvis), linebacker Navorro Bowman (shoulder), cornerback Tarrell Brown (Hamstring), cornerback Chris Culliver (Illness), linebacker Tavares Gooden (Knee/Elbow), running back Frank Gore (Wrist), guard Mike Lupati (shoulder), cornerback Carlos Rogers (Knee) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder).
The only player listed as out for the 49ers is wide receiver Mario Manningham, and his absence was expected considering he’s missed practice all week with a shoulder injury.
The Miami Dolphins (5-7) will play host to the San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. eastern. You can watch full coverage of the game right here on CBS 4.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.