FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The problem with Mark Sanchez's sub-50 percent completion percentage in his last four games might be a simple cause-and-effect situation. Tight end Dustin Keller has been nursing a hamstring injury during that entire stretch.
It's almost as if the Jets' quarterback has been like Linus without his security blanket. He can function, but his comfort level is off. But Keller returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and said he's "positive" he will play Sunday against the Colts at MetLife Stadium.
It's possible Keller's presence will restore the high-percentage aspect of the Jets' passing game for Sanchez. "It could be," Keller said. "I think just because of the time Mark and I spend together in the film room breaking things down and knowing what guys are trying to do, it makes things easier for us. We have that connection, knowing what each other is thinking."
If nothing else, a familiar face could boost Sanchez's confidence. Keller said rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill, who also was limited in practice with a hamstring injury, "looked really good" and might be back.
"We have brand new faces in the building that were thrown in at receiver, and Mark's been doing a good job of getting them going," Keller said of all the injury replacements. "Obviously, it's going to take time to get to know those guys as well as the ones who were in training camp. But I think with me coming back, I feel I know this offense pretty well and can be a lot of help."
It's water under the bridge now, but Keller admitted his determination to play the season opener after injuring his hamstring in training camp might have been a mistake. "Did that give me a setback?" Keller said. "I think so a little bit. In order to be good, I have to be full speed. That's what took me so long."
Keller said he had another setback in practice before the Miami game in Week 3. But he stayed out of practice completely the past two weeks and rehabbed nearly seven hours a day.
Keller said it was tough watching the Jets' offense struggle, but he admitted he got a kick out of seeing cornerback Antonio Cromartie targeted on a deep pass and a swing pass in Monday's loss to Houston. "A guy that runs a 4.3 is able to stretch the defense, and he's in good enough shape that he's able to play on both sides of the ball," Keller said with a laugh. "I wouldn't say that for myself."
Keller's mere presence just might shrink the field for Sanchez, and that could be the big boost the Jets' offense needs.