The Jets' passing game spreads the ball around about as evenly as possible with the top four receivers, Dustin Keller (55), Braylon Edwards (53), Santonio Holmes (52) and LaDainian Tomlinson (52) all within three catches of each other and Jerricho Cotchery (41) not much further behind. But for two seasons, tight end Dustin Keller has been the go-to guy for quarterback Mark Sanchez in key third-down situations, and lately, they have re-established that connection.
Many fans wondered why Keller seemed to disappear from the offense at midseason, but he stood out again two weeks ago in Chicago with a seven-catch day. Returning to Indianapolis, where Keller was the Jets' leading receiver in last year's AFC title game with six catches, including a touchdown, should provide even more incentive for the Indiana native in Saturday night's first-round playoff game against the Colts.
"Mark and I are playing better together now than ever before, and what better time than the playoffs," Keller told an Indianapolis TV crew on Tuesday. "Last year in the playoffs was when we were playing our best football together, and hopefully, we can replicate that this year."
The former Purdue Boilermaker said the Jets are on a mission to get a little payback. "I think that's kind of how we feel," Keller said. "They put us out last year. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl, and the first stop is Indianapolis."
The Jets' offense added wide receiver Holmes and running back Tomlinson during the offseason in an effort to put enough talented components around Sanchez in his second season to improve the offense. Is it enough to keep up with Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning, who led a 30-17 win last year?
"Very much so," Keller said. "We're a similar offense to last year in the playoffs, but you add L.T., you add Santonio Holmes, and it gives you a couple more dimensions of explosiveness, whether that's in the quick game or the changeup between Shonn Green and L.T. We have more ways we can attack."
Keller acknowledged the idea that the Jets offense might do well to play defense by putting together a strong running game to eat up the clock and keep Manning off the field. But ultimately, he expressed confidence that the offense will play well on first and third downs and work to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.
It's no longer about managing the game and trying not to lose as it was last season for Sanchez as a rookie struggling to learn the pro game without messing things up for his veteran teammates. Now Sanchez, is a more sophisicated NFL quarterback.
"Much more so just because mark has another year under his belt and he's much more comfortable with the offense," Keller said. "It's so different. Every time we had a new gameplan last year, his head was spinning. But this year, he's very comfortable with it."