The Bills will be without leading receiver Robert Woods on Sunday. Sammy Watkins will play but only have a limited role, and they could also be without Percy Harvin, who was too sick to practice Thursday and Friday.
All of that sounds like it should mean more passes for tight end Charles Clay.
But then again, a lot of things have sounded like that this season.
Clay’s numbers so far have been staggeringly low for a player the Bills had to pay handsomely to lure away from the Miami Dolphins. That’s especially true when considering how many injuries the Bills’ wide receivers have sustained this year.
Through 10 games, quarterback Tyrod Taylor has hit Clay 34 times for only 306 yards and no touchdowns. That gives him a career-low 9.0 yards per reception, and he’s already set a new career record for consecutive games without a touchdown.
Clay has only topped 100 yards once in two years with the Bills. Incredibly, he doesn’t have a catch longer than 6 yards in the last month.
“There’s only one football,” offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said last week. “We’re trying to spread it to everybody and Charles is definitely a good receiver and if you watch the tape, he was open a few times (against the Seahawks). But unfortunately, at times, the protection didn’t hold up. And so that happens.”
Pass protection may be a valid excuse on occasion, but “he was open a few times” is the part of that quote that sticks out the most. That sounded like a subtle acknowledgment of what fans and media have been thinking for a while: Clay is getting open, but Taylor either isn’t seeing him or doesn’t want to risk fitting the ball into him.
“I can’t pinpoint a specific reason,” Taylor said this week when asked why he thinks Clay doesn’t have better numbers. “I’ve always said this: coverage dictates where the ball goes. ... We’ve been able to give him the football and some touches here and there. Haven’t been able to get him the game that he’s looking for, and we want him to have that. Just gotta continue to keep pounding away and hopefully we get that game.”
Here’s the funny part of that: The Bills’ official transcript of Taylor’s press conference accidentally put “courage” in for “coverage,” making it say, “courage dictates where the ball goes.” That’s not what Taylor said, but it actually might be what fans are thinking – Taylor’s too afraid of risking a turnover to throw the ball to Clay over the middle.
Lynn denied that, sticking with pass protection and favorable matchups to other receivers, which Taylor pointed to as well.
Whatever the issue, something’s amiss between Clay and Taylor. His last 10 receptions have gone for 0, 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 6 and 6 yards. He ranks 23rd in receiving yards among tight ends.
Clay is rarely in the locker room while it’s open to media, but maybe he can provide a few answers on the field Sunday against the Jaguars.
It sounds like the perfect time.
Story topics: Charles Clay