Dustin Keller and the Jets’ tight ends have had a quiet camp.
It’s not like they haven’t played well, but the storylines on offense have focused on Mark Sanchez’s continued emergence as a leader, the Big Ten Trio otherwise known as Holmes, Mason and Plax, Shonn Greene’s promotion to the workhorse role in the backfield, and injuries/depth along the offensive line.
“We don’t mind being the silent killers,” DK told newyorkjets.com this week. “Whoever’s getting publicity — we’re not worried about that. It’s a whole team thing. As long as we’re going out there and winning, we just want to make sure we’re doing our part. I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”
Keller, a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses with his size/speed combo, led the Jets in catches last season with 55. Ben Hartsock, a 6’4”, 270-pounder who was the Green & White’s No. 2 tight end in 2010, departed in free agency and inked a deal with the Carolina Panthers. Known almost entirely for his blocking skills, Hartsock totaled two receptions in his two seasons with New York’s AFC representative.
Despite the Hartsock departure, the Jets feel good about their tight ends. Matt Mulligan, a third-year veteran, is a grinder who can help in the run game and on special teams. And Jeff Cumberland, a second-year player who played mostly wideout at Illinois, flashed his receiving skills against the Texans with team highs of six catches and 77 receiving yards.
“He did a great job, he definitely did his thing,” Keller said. “It just shows that we’re going to be able to do a lot of two-tight-end stuff this whole entire year and it will always keep the defense guessing. It just gives us another weapon.”
The 6’4”, 260-pound Cumberland has been more effective as a blocker than he was a year ago in Cortland, so that only bodes well for more playing time. While the Jets starters (minus C Nick Mangold, G Brandon Moore and WR Plaxico Burress) didn’t score in their only trip inside the 20 on Monday night, Keller anticipates better red zone efficiency in 2011.
“With some of the pickups we got — especially Plax being a big receiver — I think it’s going to be huge for us,” he said. “You’ll definitely see increased production there.”
The Jets also brought in Tom Moore as a consultant and Keller has enjoyed his time with the wise former Colts offensive coordinator.
“He’s been huge for me because he’s been giving me the ins and outs, things to look at and how to recognize this and that,” Keller said. “He’s been a great guy for me to have here.”
Moore experienced tremendous success in America’s Heartland with Peyton Manning at the controls as they often found a way to get the ball into the hands of TE Dallas Clark.
“I haven’t looked at any of his tape,” Keller said of Clark. “It’s been more so that I’ve looked at my old tape with [Moore] and he’s told me what he likes, what he thinks I should correct and what to look for.”
While Clark was injured last season and limited to just six games, he caught 100 balls and had 10 receiving TDs two years ago. It’s safe to say Keller probably won’t get triple digits anytime soon because of the Jets’ balance and he is looking forward to seeing the Ground & Pound in action once again.
“I think it keeps us well-rounded,” he said. “Some guys can go in there and give Shonn some relief and give him a little bit of a break because we’re three, four deep at that position. It’s going to be exciting to see how it plays out.”
Rex Ryan has said the Jets will let it fly some more in the fall and Keller thinks the sky’s the limit for his attention-grabbing quarterback.
“He’s done a great job, great decision making and a great leader so far,” DK said of Sanchez. “I think he just gets better and better as time goes on.”
Tags: Derrick Mason, Dustin Keller, Jeff Cumberland, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Mulligan, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Tom Moore
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