Dustin Keller Ruled Out for New York Jets: What It Means for the Offense

Erik FrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 22, 2012

Mark Sanchez and Dustin Keller have grown incredibly close over their three-plus years together in New York.
Mark Sanchez and Dustin Keller have grown incredibly close over their three-plus years together in New York.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For a second consecutive week, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will be without his favorite target in the passing game.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets have ruled out tight end Dustin Keller for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins:

I've been told Dustin Keller (hamstring) is out for tomorrow's game vs Dolphins. #nyj

— Manish Mehta(@MMehtaNYDN) September 22, 2012

The Jets looked dominant on offense in their first contest against the Bills, with Sanchez putting up a 123.4 passer rating—the second-highest regular season number of his career. Last week, though, his passer rating was almost half that of the week before at 66.6. Talk about your symbolism—the first two weeks have been a prime case of good-Mark, bad-Mark.

It wasn't all on Sanchez, to be sure, with some dropped passes killing any potential rhythm the Jets might have built. But that's actually part of the problem: Sanchez hasn't spent a great deal of time with any of the receivers besides Santonio Holmes.

Beyond that, it's mostly guys in their first or second year with the Jets.

Keller, on the other hand, has been with the Jets since the beginning of both his career and Sanchez's, and he has been one of Sanchez's favorite targets ever since.

It probably hurt more last week against the Steelers, where the blitz was at the forefront of the defensive game plan, than it will against the Dolphins, who blitz far less. But if the Dolphins choose to glean anything from the Steelers' defensive performance, they might be sending extra rushers to take advantage of the lack of chemistry between Sanchez and his receivers.

The Jets don't have a reliable tight end in the passing game outside of Keller. They tried to replace him with Jeff Cumberland last week, but we saw how that worked out.

In case you forgot, here's a quick recap:

3rd-and-short. Steelers blitz. Cumberland runs open up the seam. Sanchez throws him the ball. Cumberland continues running, unaware Sanchez has thrown the ball. The ball hits Cumberland in the back and falls to the ground.

Could have been worse—if the defender had been aware that Sanchez threw the ball, he might have picked it off.

What the Jets might give right now for any added assurances that they'll be able to form some semblance of rhythm on offense. Don't be shocked if the Jets once again struggle to do so against a Dolphins defense that is among the most underrated in the league.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.