Comparing Dolphins Jordan Cameron To Charles Clay


Two years ago Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron was an all-pro, for the Cleveland Browns. He was one of the top elite tight ends in the league but a series of concussions derailed his 2014 season almost before it ever got started. Cameron’s production slipped enough that the Browns didn’t put enough value on him when deciding on whether or not to bring him back on a new contract. The Dolphins didn’t feel the same.

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After losing Charles Clay to the Buffalo Bills in free agency, the Dolphins will be relying on the former Cameron to open their offense and his production this season could be a key to the post-season. Let’s not think that Clay wasn’t a vital part of this offense in the last two seasons for the Dolphins either but make no mistake, when healthy and on his game, Clay can’t touch the production that Cameron can produce.

Cameron will be paired with third year tight end Dion Sims who is starting to become a very solid tight end but he isn’t quite there yet. The duo of Cameron and Sims could be the best one-two tight end punch the Dolphins have had in a long time.

Comparing the two of them we need to be fair and look at the body of work between both tight-ends over the same period of time. Both players entered the NFL in 2011. Clay was drafted in the 6th round while Cameron was taken in round four.

Neither player made a major impact in their rookie seasons. In Cleveland Cameron appeared in only eight games catching six passes for 33 yards while Clay appeared in 14 games catching 16 passes for 233 and three touchdowns.

The following season Clay increased his reception total by two, 18, for 212 yards and two touchdowns, while Cameron caught 20 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.

Both played exploded in their third seasons as Clay caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns and Cameron made the Pr0-Bowl with 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last year both players struggled with injuries at some point. Clay finished his Dolphins career with 58 receptions in 14 games for 605 yards and three scores while Cameron appeared in 10 games catching 24 passes for 424 yards and two scores.

Stat wise, Clay has outperformed his replacement three of four seasons but Clay struggled in the red-zone and Cameron seems to excel in that area. While the Dolphins won’t get production from Clay this year Cameron should be an integral part of an offense that desperately needs to increase their score potential inside the 20. Last year the Dolphins were in the top five of teams making red zone appearances yet they dropped considerably in rank in red-zone scoring.

Both players did well in 2013 from inside the 20 with Clay catching 10 balls for 50 yards and five TD’s while Cameron caught 11 for 76 and seven touchdowns. Each tight end were comparable to each other in the 20-49 range of the opponents field and on the Dolphins side of the ball.

Cameron however did very well in the 2nd half of games posting 13 more receptions in the 2nd half than Clay and totaling almost 120 more yards. Situational stats are important because of how each player is used. Some of Clay’s performance can be related to the Dolphins straying off their game plan under Mike Sherman and comparing the 2013 season of Cameron to the 2014 season of Clay is hard because Clay spent some time injured and not fully recovered in those situations, Clay dropped to 32 receptions in the 2nd half in 2014.

One more note on the comparison tends to lean towards the Dolphins philosophy in game management. When the Dolphins were ahead, Clay was only targeted 10 times as the Dolphins tend to go to a more traditional clock management offense. In 2013 The Browns under Norv Turner as OC targeted Cameron 22 times. When Miami led by one to 16 points in 2014, Clay wasn’t much of the offense catching only 8 passes. Conversely Cameron caught 22 in that same point differential.

Looking at the two players situational use further, when losing by one to 16 points, Miami targeted Clay 39 times making him an important role player, Cameron in that same situation also caught 39.  When trailing by any point margin, Cameron was targeted 50 times while Clay was targeted 40.

Finally one eye popping stat comes in fourth quarter targets where Cameron was targeted 37 times for 400 yards and three scores and with seven points in score in the 4th, Cameron was thrown to 17 times for two scores and 214 yards. Clay on the other hand saw only 18 targets in the 4th quarter in 2014 while being targeted only nine times if the team was within seven points. Clay didn’t score any receiving touchdowns.

I use Bill Lazor’s 2014 season as comparison as that is who will be calling the shots with Cameron in 2015. Looking at the 2013 4th quarter stats for Clay, he caught 20 passes in the 4th quarter and two scores, and 14 passes for one score if the team was within seven.

The question really is how will the Dolphins use Cameron compared to Clay? If Miami chooses to use Cameron in the same way, assuming he is healthy, the Dolphins should retain much of the same production but if the Dolphins use Cameron as he was used in Cleveland in 2013, the Dolphins should see an increase in production from the position that should equate to more scoring.

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Where the two differ the most is how they use their bodies and work the field. Clay is an average seem route runner and made his money on the sideline passes where Cameron makes his living using the middle of the field. In the red-zone, Cameron has far better use of his two inch height advantage and his body to box out close defenders.

The beneficiary to Cameron is Ryan Tannehill who can get a little loose with his throws inside the red-zone. Having a bigger target who tends to fight more for passes should bode well for the Dolphins this season. When it’s all said and done, the Dolphins don’t have a far better tight-end statistically but they have a tight-end who could outperform all the stats for the last four seasons of each player. It will depend on how well the Dolphins use Cameron in 2015.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity for Cameron comes in the form of Mike Wallace’s departure. As the teams number one wide-out and let’s face it, his drama, now gone, Tannehill won’t be as inclined to keep that player happy with passes simply to keep him happy. Tannehill had options in 2013 but he had to feed the ball to Wallace or deal with his attitude. This years squad doesn’t have any “me” first type of players and that should allow Tannehill more opportunity to make the best choice instead of a forced one.

I know it sounds trite but the reality is Jordan Cameron could become Tannehill’s favorite target inside the opponents 40 yard line and in the red-zone.

Stats were obtained from