The Miami Dolphins finally had a good tight end. A tight end that could block for and catch from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Reports from training camp indicated that Tannehill had an easy time developing chemistry with Dustin Keller, but now it’s all over.
It all ended with a hit from Texans linebacker D.J. Swearinger, whose helmet made contact with Keller’s knee. Regardless of whether or not you think the hit was dirty the end result is the same: the former Jet tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL.
So what does this mean for the Dolphins? It means Jeff Ireland’s drafting and scouting ability comes under even more scrutiny. The in-team options are all draft picks from the last three years. There’s rookie Dion Sims, who was taken in the fourth round, second year player Michael Egnew, taken in the third round in last year’s draft, and Charles Clay who was taken in the sixth round in 2011. Sims is still an unknown, but Egnew was less than impressive in his first season, only being activated for two games, and Clay has dabbled at halfback more than tight end in the past.
If those options don’t pan out Miami will find themselves searching waivers as well as the available undrafted free agents, but they are going to have a hard time matching what Keller was going to do this season. The short list includes former Dolphin Randy McMichael, Kevin Boss (if he can get cleared to play), and Todd Heap.
Keller had a great ability to get open quickly and cause mismatches against linebackers and safeties. With issues on the Dolphins offensive line the blocking was going to prove critical. Keller provided hands on the offensive side of the ball in a way that Miami’s tight end corps has lacked in recent years.
None of the options currently out there will match the impact Keller would have had this season as a safety net of sorts for Tannehill. That being said Miami went above and beyond this offseason and has three strong receivers to help carry the load as well as several running back options.
As critics and fans we now have to give the offense — as well as Tannehill — a bit of a break to find chemistry with another tight end. Keller was becoming Tannehill’s safety blanket, but his injury will certainly put a change in their plans for the season. There’s no question this team lost a serious play maker and his absence is going to leave a significant hole.