Commentary

Sky's the limit for Jets' Dustin Keller

Talented tight end's work with offensive guru Tom Moore has paid off in 2011

Updated: September 23, 2011, 6:40 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Dustin Keller bought a spiral notebook over the summer and filled it with five weeks of Tom Moore -- "the Tom Moore book of knowledge," he calls it.

In training camp, Keller spent a lot of time with Moore, listening, asking questions and scribbling notes. The longtime NFL assistant was hired by the New York Jets as an offensive consultant, paying particular attention to the tight ends.

For Keller, who grew up in Indianapolis admiring Moore's offenses with the Colts, it was a cool way to spend a summer. He believes Moore's influence is one of the reasons why he's off to such a fast start.

TBD
AP Photo/Julio CortezDustin Keller has 11 catches in 2011, nine of which have resulted in a first down.

"I still actually go back to my notebook and glance back at it every once in a while," Keller said. "You'd be dumb not to."

Can't argue with the results.

Keller shredded the Jacksonville Jaguars in last week's 32-3 victory, catching six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. He already has 11 receptions, including nine for first downs. Overshadowed in the preseason by Plaxico Burress and the new-look receiving corps, Keller has emerged as the Jets' most dangerous weapon.

"It's one big play after another," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.

Keller's receiving talent was evident from the first day he stepped on the field in 2008 as a first-round pick, but he has learned the nuances of his position. With the help of tight ends coach Mike Devlin and Moore, best known for his Yoda-like presence in Peyton Manning's career, Keller has honed his route running.

He admitted he used to rely on pure speed to outrun linebackers and safeties. Now he tries to set them up, perhaps with a hesitation move on the stem of his route, a little something to freeze an outside linebacker. Keller credited Moore's teachings.

"I look back on the notes and try to work it into whatever our scheme is that week, everything from the top of my routes to reading defenses to getting separation on a guy," Keller said. "He's been so helpful in all those areas."

Once training camp ended, Moore, 72, returned to his home in Hilton Head, S.C., where he breaks down practice tape and upcoming opponents in his role as a consultant. He watched last week's game on TV and, naturally, was thrilled to see Keller making so many plays against the Jaguars' Cover 2 zone.

"He's a great athlete," Moore said in a phone interview, "but the thing that really fires me up about him is his work ethic. He wants to learn and get better and better. He's a tireless worker. He'll follow you around the building, looking for ideas."

Keller is so familiar with Moore's work because of their Indiana ties. While attending school at Purdue, Keller studied tape of Moore's tight end, Dallas Clark, dreaming of the day he could be the same type of weapon. That day is here.

Asked if there are similarities between Clark and Keller, Moore said, "Very much so. They're both great athletes and they both work hard. The sky's the limit [for Keller]."

Keller will face a different style of defense Sunday against the Oakland Raiders (1-1), predominantly a man-to-man team. He's not going to see the soft, we-dare-you-to-throw-over-the-middle zones he did last week, but that's OK.

"My eyes light up no matter what it is," he said.

Keller's timing couldn't be better. In the fourth year of a five-year contract, he'll be in a position to renegotiate after the season. In fact, he recently changed agents, hiring Drew Rosenhaus, known as a deal maker. Keller didn't want to discuss it, but when a player switches agents, it often means he's looking for a new deal.

After Sunday's game, Rex Ryan joked that he didn't want to shower Keller with too many superlatives, noting it could come back to hurt the team at the bargaining table. (Darrelle Revis, anyone?) Keller heard about Ryan's comments, via a text from a friend.

"I laughed," Keller said.

In the meantime, he'll go back to his notebooks, including the one he reserved for Moore's lessons. Keller hasn't talked to him since camp ended, but suspects they'll catch up soon.

"I'm sure he wants to let me know how I'm doing," Keller said.

He already has.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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