No receiver on the Jets has been targeted more this season than TE Dustin Keller, who was thrown to 87 times in the first 13 games. But even with all the attention he's received from QB Mark Sanchez, Keller has tended to disappear in games recently, one of the reasons for the team's struggles in the passing game over the past month.
The third-year pro started off the season as Sanchez's go-to guy, highlighted by a 7-115-1 performance in Week Two, followed by back-to-back games in which he scored two touchdowns in each. Since then, Keller has rarely been a major factor, catching no more than four passes in any game since Week Three and not finding the endzone since Week Four. The emergence of WR Santonio Holmes has contributed in part to the tight end's decrease in big plays, but offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said that it has been their opponents' adjustments that have led to the slip in Keller's statistics.
"Obviously defenses know where Dustin is. (Miami) did a good job of putting a corner on him most of the time," Schottenheimer said of the team's Week 14 game vs. the Dolphins. "There were other times when he was open and we got the ball to him. There were other times he was open and we missed him in the progression."
The latter of the coach's issues is a concern for the Jets. Sanchez has struggled in recent weeks to complete passes, oftentimes missing receivers who had created separation from defenders. In the team's consecutive losses to the Patriots and Dolphins, the quarterback completed just 44 percent of his throws (34-of-77) and tossed four interceptions to no touchdowns. No player highlighted those troubles more than Keller, who was targeted 16 times in the two games but came up with only six catches.
"We just hit a little dry spell here on offense," the second-year QB said. "We'll get it fixed, and it's my job to pinpoint exactly what it is. I have a pretty good feeling that a lot of it is me and it's got to get better."
For a team that has had trouble lately protecting the quarterback and running the ball, the obvious way for Sanchez and the Jets to turn it around would be to not only target but complete passes to Keller more often.