The Miami Dolphins haven’t had a legitimate seam-stretching tight end on their roster since 2006 when Randy McMichael was one of the league’s most talented at the position but never was able to live up to his potential.
Anthony Fasano was a sneaky-good pass catcher in Miami over the past five seasons but his strength was blocking.
Tight ends, when utilized effectively, can be a quarterback’s best friend. They present a large target over the middle of the field that can help pick apart even pristine coverage, and the position is seemingly getting faster and more athletic by the season.
Well, the Dolphins finally have themselves a player at the position that can challenge the seam and a player that could become one of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s go-to targets. Dustin Keller has been on the league’s top receiving tight ends when healthy and when he’s had decent (generous, I know) quarterback play.
No tight end in Dolphins’ franchise history has had as many receiving yards in a season as Keller’s 815 in 2011. And Keller managed that type of production with Mark Sanchez at the helm in New York.
Keller just may end up being one of the most talented tight ends to ever wear a Dolphins uniform. If he can return to form that is.
Keller missed half of the 2012 season with a nagging ankle injury, limiting him to a career-low 317 yards receiving and two touchdowns. At only 28 years old, however, Keller should have no problem picking up where he left off before the injury.
His production will be pending the development of Ryan Tannehill, but being the reliable target over the middle that he is, Keller should help aid the sophomore quarterback’s maturation.
Let’s set Keller’s over/under regarding his 2013 stat line.
Dustin Keller over/under: 49.5 receptions, 600 receiving yards, 4.5 touchdowns
My take: Over on all counts
Ryan Tannehill’s strength is throwing outside the numbers. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for Keller’s production. But we saw Tannehill grow over the course of the season a year ago, and he eventually became more comfortable throwing over the middle of the field.
Throw Keller into the mix, and Tannehill now has a seam-stretching tight end that will give Miami plenty of mismatches between the hashes. And signing Keller, a 28-year old veteran still in the midst of his prime, to only a one-year contract is a huge win for the 2013 Dolphins.
That could be problematic next offseason if resigning Keller becomes a priority, but there’s no doubt he will be extremely motivated to have a highly productive year. The 2014 offseason could be Keller’s last chance to cash in with a prosperous, multi-year contract. And he’ll need a prolific 2013 season with the Dolphins in order to do it.
Keller adds a dimension to the Dolphins’ offense that the franchise hasn’t seen in quite some time. And it comes at a vital time for a quarterback that desperately needs weapons to develop into something special, and for a franchise that desperately needs a special quarterback to emerge as a legitimate contender for the first time in over a decade.
Your turn to weigh in! Do you think Keller will amass 50 receptions, over 600 yards, and five touchdowns this season for the Dolphins?