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Dustin Keller poised for a big season

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller speaks

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller speaks to the media at the team's football practice facility Tuesday, July 26, 2011 in Florham Park, N.J., the day after the NFL lockout ended. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Wide receivers, as they usually do, have been commanding most of the media attention this preseason. That’s OK with Jets tight end Dustin Keller.

The fourth-year tight end has quietly been working on his game, content to let the spotlight swing to every receiver around him.

“That’s fine with me,” Keller said. “[Teams] can overlook me and then hopefully I’ll have a big day.”

Keller had a big year in 2010 -- with a team-best 55 catches and five touchdowns -- and with the additions of veterans Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason, coupled with any improvement by quarterback Mark Sanchez, Keller has a chance to build on that.

So far in camp, jelling with the new receiving corps has been the main focus, Keller said. He’s not concerned with Mason or Burress replacing his position as a safety valve for Sanchez.

“I think regardless of how it plays out, as long as we’re moving the football and putting points on the board, none of the receivers really care,” Keller said. “Obviously you always want to get the ball, but the No. 1 priority is just production.”

Keller has been hanging close with new offensive consultant Tom Moore, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts, who oversaw tight ends Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard develop among the leading receivers at their position.

“He’s been great,” Keller said of Moore. “Anytime I mess something up, I turn around, he’s right there on my back letting me know about it.”

Keller also added five pounds to his frame in an effort to improve his blocking, an area he has struggled with the past few seasons. After playing at about 250 pounds last year, Keller said he hopes to stay at 255 once the season begins.

The Jets will rely on 265-pound Matthew Mulligan and rookie Jeff Cumberland as their main blocking tight ends, head coach Rex Ryan said, but Keller said his goal is to be out there as much as possible.

“I saw some improvement last year from him, but I think he’s around where he was last year,” Ryan said. “I hope to see him get a little more aggressive.”

Keller’s never lagged at catching passes, and that again will be where he earns his paycheck. With the new additions on offense, he might even be open once in a while. 

“He’s definitely a Pro Bowl-caliber player,” Sanchez said. “Even him watching Derrick Mason run routes, watching a lot of cutups with him, [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] and [tight ends’ coach Mike Devlin], Dustin’s seeing how he can unlock his full potential.”


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