Dustin Keller injury dwarfs Dolphins’ loss to Texans

The Miami Dolphins may have lost more than a game at Houston on Saturday night.

Tight end Dustin Keller, signed as a free agent and expected to be the starting tight end, was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury midway through the second quarter of the Dolphins’ 24-17 defeat to the Texans.

“You hate to see any player in that situation,” coach Joe Philbin said. “We all are wishing Dustin well. We hope his return is sooner as opposed to later.”

The Dolphins and their fans hope Keller’s injury proves to be less serious that it looked. If the veteran does get sidelined for any amount of time, it’ll be up to backups Michael Egnew, Charles Clay and rookie Dion Sims to step up.

A Dolphins team minus Keller likely would cause general manager Jeff Ireland to scour the league for available tight ends as teams reduce their rosters for the season.

Keller’s injury overshadowed everything else — good, bad, in-between — at Houston.

Here are five takeaways from the loss.

1. A Dustin Keller absence would mean opportunity for others.

The Dolphins don’t comment on injuries — which might be why Philbin wasn’t asked about Keller during a brief halftime TV interview — but the Keller injury was significant, whether it proves to be for a short time or longer.

Keller was injured after being hit by Texans linebacker D.J. Swearinger, whose helmet made contact with the veteran’s right knee. Keller failed to hold onto a Ryan Tannehill pass, and the tight end immediately grabbed his knee with both hands.

It was nice to see Dolphins players surround Keller and offer encouragement before he was carted off the field. The offseason free-agent acquisition had been expected to play a big role in the offense. He had one catch for 14 yards before being hurt.

That left Egnew, Clay and Sims to compete for time at tight end.

A third-round pick in 2012, Egnew was a disappointment during his rookie season. However, the coaches have said he has looked good in camp. He had one catch for 14 yards against the Texans.

Clay, more of an H-Back, caught 34 passes overall during his first two seasons with Miami. Sims, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, had two drops on Saturday night.

2. It’s official: Mike Wallace has arrived in Miami.

The highest-profiled free-agent signee made a big impact at Houston after not catching a pass during Miami’s first two preseason games.

Wallace caught three passes for 58 yards — including a 33-yard pass play — all on a 7-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with his 9-yard touchdown reception from Tannehill.

Wallace also contributed a nice block on Lamar Miller’s 4-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 14.

Tannehill, by the way, completed 10 of 15 for 141 yards with no interceptions.

3. Let’s not forget, Will Davis is still a rookie.

The third-round pick from Utah State arrived with the reputation of always being around the ball and forcing turnovers. His interception was among four takeaways at Jacksonville in Miami’s second preseason game.

But covering wideouts and preventing completions are a cornerback’s No. 1 job, and the Texans exposed the fact that Davis remains raw.

Davis bit on Lester Jean’s stop-and-go route that resulted in a 38-yard touchdown catch … on 4th and 2!

Credit Houston with the call, but Davis got burned.

4. Josh Samuda doesn’t appear to be an answer at right guard.

Samuda, a second-year guard out of Massachusetts, started and was noticed early — not a good thing. Houston’s Antonio Smith got around him to sack Tannehill at the Dolphins’ 34.

Smith also got evaded Samuda early in the second quarter and tackled Miller for a 3-yard loss on second-and-11 on Miami’s own 11.

John Jerry is expected to return soon from a knee injury. Veteran Lance Louis, signed as a free agent, dressed last night after nursing a knee injury suffered last season.

Miami needs Jerry and Louis healthy — fast.

5. Miami needs to cut down on penalties.

The Dolphins were flagged 5 times for 41 yards in the first half, when the starters mostly played.

The backup tight ends all took some blame.

Egnew’s hold on the first play of Miami’s second possession negated Miller’s 8-yard run. On the next play, Clay committed a false start. Sims was called for holding with Miami on its own 12 in the second quarter.

Jimmy Wilson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct om a first-quatter punt though it was off set by a Houston penalty (Eddie Pleasant, illegal block). It was Wilson’s second personal foul of the season.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at mac1763@bellsouth.net or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas.