Updated, 7:10 p.m. ET
After catching all seven passes thrown to him for 93 yards and scoring a fourth quarter touchdown during Sunday’s overtime loss to the New England Patriots, Dustin Keller appears to be in a familiar spot.
“I’m finally getting into the swing of things and starting to get a real good feel for the passing game and all that stuff, because when you’re gone for a while, you don’t see those looks for a little while and it’s kind of a little weird when you first get out there,” the tight end said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “But I feel back in the swing of things and pretty much back to where I was.”
Keller had missed four games earlier this season due to a hamstring injury, but returned to the Jets lineup against Indianapolis on Oct. 14. In that game, he had one catch for 6 yards on the only pass thrown his way by Mark Sanchez. However, in Foxboro, the QB/TE duo were able to regain their strong connection.
“I think there’s a major comfort level,” Keller said of his relationship with Sanchez, “and also at the same time, if there’s anything that feels a little cloudy in our minds, we both are comfortable enough to come up to each other and be like, ‘What were you thinking on that play?’ Just so we’re thinking alike. We both know exactly what each other is thinking. I try to do that anytime there’s a little bit of a question in my mind on any play.”
No. 81’s touchdown against New England came on the final play of the 92-yard drive that cut the Patriots’ lead to 23-20 with just under six minutes remaining in regulation. Sanchez threw the pass in a tight window and Keller was able to haul in the 7-yard reception in the middle of the end zone.
“The whole play worked because Mark put it in the only spot they couldn’t get it,” the fifth-year TE said.
As the Green & White gear up to take on the Miami Dolphins for the second time this season, Keller has been encouraged with how the Jets receivers have progressed since Santonio Holmes, their No. 1 WR, went down with a season-ending foot injury on Sept. 30.
“I think all the guys have done a great job of picking up the slack since Santonio’s been out,” Keller said. “Everybody has been picking up a little bit. Obviously there’s not one guy that’s going to pick up all the production and do all the things that Santonio was doing for us. But the guys that are here have been doing a great job.”
The Dolphins didn’t have an answer for Holmes when the teams first met last month. Tone finished that day with nine receptions for 147 yards and the Jets picked up their lone road victory of the season, leaving Sun Life Stadium with the 23-20 overtime victory. Keller was sidelined for the matchup but still analyzed the team’s performance.
“I think we did some good things the first game,” he said. “We were lucky enough to pull away the game. I don’t think we played our best football, but we did enough in each area, special teams, defense and offense, to win the game.”
Heading into their second meeting, Keller believes the Jets have an advantage against the Miami pass defense, which is allowing 284.8 yards per game, 28th in the NFL. But regardless of what the stats indicate about Miami, Keller knows how important Sunday’s contest is. And when you consider that the Jets enter their bye week after the game, it makes things even more critical.
“I feel like all AFC East games are rivalry games,” Keller said. “Anytime you’re going to get a team twice in a season, that’s a rivalry to me. But it’s always a tough game. All the AFC East games are tough, but for some reason, Miami, it seems like it’s been a big one for us.”
Rex and Reggie
The week before the Jets faced the Dolphins last month, Jets head coach Rex Ryan made comments describing how his team planned to contain running back Reggie Bush that drew some heat after the fact.
At the time, Ryan said, “Obviously, we have to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and getting him on the ground. Put some hot sauce on him, if you will.”
The Jets defeated Bush and the Dolphins, 23-20, in overtime. Bush produced 61 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury late in the second quarter. Late in the third quarter, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending torn left ACL.
Days after the game, Bush said: “It’s like the old saying, what goes around comes around. They talked all week about putting hot sauce and this and that, and they ended up losing their best player for the rest of the season. So it’s sad that it happened because of that, but I’m going to be back.”
As the AFC East foes prepare to meet again Sunday, Ryan was asked about the topic during his news conference this afternoon and explained the theory behind his statement.
“I never was saying that we were going to try to injury Reggie Bush,” Ryan said. “That’s not even close. He’s going to get our attention. I’m sorry, but he’s the type of player that’s going to warrant our attention and we’re going to give it to him, there is no question. That was what I meant by my comments. If it was taken differently, out of context or whatever, I apologized for that. Trust me, we know when he’s in the game. He is still going to get our attention.”
Ryan added that he never wants to see a player get hurt. He said as bad as he wants to beats Tom Brady, he would never want to see the Patriots QB out due to injury.
“Shoot, I’m a football fan as well as a coach,” he said. “This game is great because of the players and the talent that plays in this league.”
Bush enters Round 2 with the Green & White having started all six of Miami’s games with 98 rushes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.
Wednesday Injury Reports
The swelled-up Jets’ injury list continues to come back to earth slowly. The list now has 16 players, equal to its shortest Wednesday of the season. New to the list are TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist, did not participate) and G Vlad Ducasse (knee, full), but off the list completely are Keller, WR Stephen Hill and LB Bryan Thomas.
Eight players were DNPs for today’s practice. Besides Keller, they were NT Kenrick Ellis (knee), C Nick Mangold (ankle), RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle), LB Calvin Pace (who was kicked in the shin vs. the Patriots), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), LB Bart Scott (toe) and S Eric Smith (knee).
McKnight is being brought along carefully after injuring the ankle against the Colts. As he said today, “If Coach Westhoff can play with a rod in his leg, I can play with a sore ankle.”
Also, NT Sione Pouha (back) was limited, as he was last Thursday and Friday. “I’m encouraged he’s out there giving it a shot this week,” said Ryan. “Big Bo” has missed the last three games and four of the seven this season.
The Dolphins’ list, on the other hand, is short by almost any standard. Only five players are listed by coach Joe Philbin: DNP — CB Richard Marshall (back) and DT Randy Starks (non-football); Limited — S Jimmy Wilson (ankle); Full — LB Koa Misi (hamstring) and RB Daniel Thomas (concussion).
Tags: Bilal Powell, Dustin Keller, joe McKnight, Mark Sanchez, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Sione Pouha
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