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New York Jets’ Dustin Keller: How Does He Fit in New Offense?

February 28th, 2012 at 2:16 PM
By Donald Lappe

Every offseason brings about change in the NFL, but Super Bowl expectations followed by an 8-8 season brings about a lot of change. The biggest change for the New York Jets is their new offensive coordinator, former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. While Brian Schottenheimer was hoping to transition to the Jets into a passing offense that relied more on the arm of Mark Sanchez, Sparano believes in running the football and relying on his offensive line and running backs. As a tight end, Dustin Keller plays a position that serves as a "swing man" in relation to the two different offensive philosophies. How will he fit in with Sparano's offense?

Since very few tight ends truly fit the bill as an effective run blocker and pass catcher, the type of tight ends a team has usually is a good indicator of the style of offense they want to run. Typically favoring the run, Tony Sparano likes to have big, physical tight ends that can make a difference in the running game with their blocking. That's not exactly an accurate description of Dustin Keller.

This has led to some speculation that Keller could be traded away. While Keller might not be a perfect fit for Tony Sparano, does it really make sense to take away the one target Mark Sanchez clearly has a good rapport with? Keller and Sanchez are great friends off the field, and Keller has led the team in receptions the past two seasons. Sanchez has dealt with a revolving door of wide receivers – Plaxico Burress will almost certainly join Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards as Sanchez targets that have come and gone in just three seasons – but Keller has always been a solid option for him.

Keller has pulled a disappearing act from time to time, but he really is a security blanket for Sanchez. With Sanchez excelling at the play-action pass, and the tight end being a natural target on those plays, the last thing he needs is to be breaking in a new tight end along with getting used to a new offensive coordinator this year. It's a big season for Sanchez personally and some continuity would be a nice boost for him.  

Keller isn't a great blocker, but sometimes a new offensive coordinator also has to adjust to the players he has. He might need to piece it together by using a rare tool the Jets do have, a pure blocking fullback in John Conner. The Jets have another rare commodity in Keller, a tight end with good hands, good size and good speed. Giving that up doesn't make the Jets better. In the long-term he might not be a perfect fit, but in the near future he still needs to be a major part of the offense.

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Tags: Braylon Edwards, Brian Schottenheimer, Dustin Keller, Football, Jerricho Cotchery, John Conner, Mark Sanchez, New York, New York Jets, NFL, Plaxico Burress, Tony Sparano

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