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Key matchup: Jets TE Dustin Keller vs. Dolphins defense

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By Kevin Fishbain

Jets TE Dustin Keller had a big week against the Patriots and is likely looking forward to a familiar foe this week in the Dolphins. In Friday's "Key Matchup," we take a look how the two will contend with each other in Sunday's big Jets-Dolphins AFC East divisional rivalry game.

Jets TE Dustin Keller vs. Dolphins defense 

Part Two of the AFC East showdown between the Dolphins and Jets is a key battle for second place in the division, and a leg up in what remains a wide-open AFC wild-card race. The Jets snuck out of Miami with an overtime win in Week Three, and did so without one of their top offensive players, TE Dustin Keller, a Dolphins killer.

In six career games against Miami, Keller has 28 catches for 328 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 54.7 receiving yards and 0.7 TDs per game. He came on strong last week in his best game this season, catching all seven of his targets for 93 yards and a score vs. the Patriots.

Keller has been a favorite target of Mark Sanchez over the years, and without WR Santonio Holmes on the field (Holmes caught 9-147 against Miami in Week Three), Keller is a key weapon for Gang Green.

In most matchups, covering a tight end isn’t too crucial to the outcome, but when Keller means as much as he does to the Jets’ offense and considering Miami’s strengths against the run and weaknesses covering tight ends this one will be worth watching on Sunday.

Miami owns one of the best run defenses in the league and will want to put the game in Sanchez’s hands. LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and S Reshad Jones will factor in keeping Keller in check.

Texans TE Owen Daniels had 4-87 receiving against Miami in Week One, Raiders TE Brandon Myers caught 6-86 in Week Two and Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham had five catches for 60 yards against the Dolphins in Week Five. Keller has a little more seam-stretching ability than those fellow tight ends to cause problems for the Dolphins’ defense.

Keller has the speed to get away from Dansby or Burnett, and has a size advantage over Jones if he gets into the secondary. Keller is also a safety valve for Sanchez, and the Dolphins have given up some big pass plays on short dump-offs that have led to a big yards-after-the-catch play. The linebacking corps will need to always be aware of Keller on broken plays if Sanchez moves outside the pocket.

The Jets’ passing offense can run through Keller, especially without Holmes. In addition to being a key red-zone target, he can attract safeties in the middle and open things up for young WRs Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley on the outside. Keeping him active would be a boost to a Jets passing game that has been inconsistent this season, and will need to be efficient if the Dolphins bottle up RB Shonn Greene.

For the Dolphins, Keller provides a test that they likely prepared for during the bye week, and with the run defense being as stout as it has been, keeping Keller in check puts the Dolphins in position to earn a big win. The Jets would prefer to use a ground-and-pound attack, but it’s not easy against the Dolphins, and Keller has the ability to help open up the New York air attack. 

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