Dustin Keller practices, might play on Sunday vs. 49ers

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller #81 New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller #81 catches a pass during practice at the Atlantic Health Training Facility. (June 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Joe Epstein

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets' passing game has been more miss than hit for much of this season, but it appears quarterback Mark Sanchez might get his security blanket back with the possible return of tight end Dustin Keller on Sunday against San Francisco at MetLife Stadium.

Keller caught only one pass in the opening blowout of Buffalo and missed the next two games with a hamstring injury. Sanchez saw his completion percentage fall to a league-low 50.5 percent without his favorite target. But Keller, who is listed as questionable, practiced on a limited basis Thursday.

"It would be big if we can get him back," offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said. "Dustin is obviously a weapon and a guy who has been a real steady player for Mark."

Coach Rex Ryan said he thinks it's "doubtful'' that starting wide receiver Stephen Hill will play Sunday. He has a hamstring injury and failed to practice for the second straight day. If he can't go, Ryan said Jeremy Kerley likely will start. Kerley has eight catches for a 23.1-yard average, including four gains of at least 20 yards, but he's done his damage from the slot.

"I feel if they put me out there, I'll have the same achievements I have inside when I'm in the slot," Kerley said. "We just hope Stephen can get back on the field. He's obviously a weapon. I mean, he's a sub-4.3 guy.

"My mismatches are made inside. I do feel like I can be productive on the outside, but I know my game. If I'm asked to play outside, I have no problem. It's just wherever they need me."

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Truth be told, Sanchez needs every receiver who has proved he can hang on to the ball. After a game of fits and starts last week in Miami, he suddenly found a rhythm with wideout Santonio Holmes, who enjoyed his first 100-yard game in two seasons and made the big play to set up Nick Folk's winning field goal in overtime.

Sparano was pleased with the way Sanchez righted the ship at crunchtime, and he believes Sanchez and Holmes are headed in the right direction. "There was a period in practice [Wednesday] where Mark was throwing the ball, and I don't think I've seen him throw it better at any point," Sparano said. "Then today, he strung some things together. I just think their timing is really starting to come together."

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