Let’s talk about a little bit about tight end Dustin Keller, and how great he is.
Since Keller was drafted by the Jets in 2008, his numbers have steadily improved. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception as a rookie, ending the season with 535 total yards. By the end of last season, he averaged 12.5 yards per reception and ended the season with 687 total yards and five touchdowns. This season, he already has two touchdowns in two games.
On a team with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason, Keller leads them all with 11 receptions for 162 yards so far this season. You would think having receivers like that on the team would mean his catches would decrease, but that hasn’t been the case. Last Sunday, against the Jaguars, Keller had six receptions for 101 yards. Against Dallas he had five receptions for 61 yards.
Keller is coordinated and fast, and his blocking skills – a hole in his game when he came out of college – have improved so much that he stays on the field to make hits when the Jets run the ball, something that didn’t happen right away. He used to have to leave the field on running plays.
Keller always seems to hold on to the ball when it matters. 9 of his 11 receptions have been for first downs, a number of which have come in third down situations. When the Jets are in trouble, it frequently feels like it’s Keller who is there to make the big play, to turn and take the ball up field. He rarely fumbles, losing one fumble in four years, back in 2009.
He’s the type of tight end the league is moving towards – speedy and athletic, with the ability to catch passes and run with them. He’s so good that he’s become one of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s go-to guys. Sanchez and Keller are reportedly very good friends off the field, helping their natural chemistry, and they’re probably two of the Jets’ most improved players in the last few seasons. The last time Jets fans saw a QB-TE team this good, it was Vinny Testaverde and Anthony Becht nearly a decade ago.
But the most beautiful thing about Keller's game isn’t that he rarely has butterfingers or how good he’s become in four seasons – it’s that he’s somehow still flying under the opponent’s radar. When teams double up coverage on Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards last season, and now Plaxico Burress, they leave the door open for Keller to make the big catch. And he no trouble running right through that door and towards the endzone.
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