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Sunday, September 18, 2011
Keller exploits middle for huge day

By Matt Ehalt


It's a mismatch from the start.

When Jets tight end Dustin Keller is lined up against a linebacker with the middle of the field free to roam, the defense is going to have a problem.

"I feel like I'm going to have the advantage in that matchup always," Keller said.

With the Jaguars placing emphasis on shutting down the outside receivers, it allowed Keller to exploit the middle of the Jaguars defense as he hauled in six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Jets 32-3 win Sunday.

Keller led the team in targets, catches and yards and now has two touchdowns on the young season along with 162 receiving yards. He recorded his first 100-yard receiving game since last season and the third of his career.

"They pretty much gave us the middle of the field and they were playing a lot of zone," Keller said. "They just left the middle of the field wide open so that left a lot of things open for me."

The Jaguars tactic of shutting down receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress by dropping most of their defensive backs and linebackers into zone coverage worked on the two receivers as they combined for just 42 yards on three catches, none from Burress.

It left Keller with his one-on-one matchup, though, and he made the Jaguars pay.

"We expected that and we thought they might do that against us," Keller said. "Mark (Sanchez) did a great job all week (in practice) and all that transfers over in the game today."

On the first drive, the Jets quickly implemented Keller into their plan as Sanchez hit him a three-yard pass and then a 33-year pass down the middle that gave the Jets the ball at the Jaguars' 17-yard line. The Jets scored on the next play, a touchdown to Holmes, to take a quick 7-0 lead.

Keller scored his touchdown in the third quarter. Facing a 2nd-and-8 at the Jaguars'11-yard line, the Jets had a three by one set and hoped to attack a portion of the field that Keller said Jacksonville was "a little vulnerable at."

On that play, Keller said he lined up vertical and the linebacker expected him to break out on the play but the play called for him to break in and he found his open space. In this case, Keller beat linebacker Paul Posluszny to give the Jets a 22-3 lead.

"He did a great job finding some openings and getting the ball and making some yards after the catch," running back Shonn Greene said of Keller's day.

Following the game, Jets head coach Rex Ryan stayed away from being too complimentary of Keller. He jokingly mentioned Keller's free agency following next season and how he's learned his lesson after building up corner Darrelle Revis so much that it created problems for the team when negotiating a new deal with Revis last summer.

With the way Keller's been playing so far this season at a position scarce with elite talent, perhaps that's a smart strategy.

"We all know he's a tremendous receiving tight end and he's getting much better at blocking, so I'm really proud of the day he had," Ryan said.