Kingsley Keke was targeted by the Packers as a player that needed to take positive steps in his play to earn his role on the Packer’s defense in 2020. A fifth round pick in 2019, he showed flashes as a rookie but no meaningful game impacts. Sunday night in New Orleans, Keke had himself a personal Mardi Gras, posting the first two solo sacks of his young career.
Keke played only 28 defensive snaps, but he made his presence known and earned some respect from the vaunted Saints offensive line. A break down of his 28 plays details his impact.
Play 1: Keke came in on third down on the Saints first series. His pass rush did not provide pressure but he rotated towards Brees’ throwing lane, showing awareness. The completion could have moved the chains, but Saints receiver Deonte Harris retreated back behind the sticks and was tackled by Alexander.
Plays 2-3: Keke came back in near the end of the Saints TD drive. On his first play the Saints ran away from Keke. While he had good penetration, it is away from the ball and he does not impact the stop. On the next play Keke gets good push up front and has a hand up very close to Bees, but the pass escapes him and ends up in Kamara’s hands for a touchdown.
Play 4: Third down and ten and Pettine dials up an outside stunt by Keke. Gary, another second year player, does his job, charging inside head first into the guard while also occupying the Saints’ tackle. Keke shows very good speed for a man his size, turning and running around the end to nail Brees in under three seconds. This was not a coverage sack. This was two young players executing together just like a coach drew it up. The sack also jarred the ball loose, but bounced away from Keke and the Saints recovered. The play forced a rare punt for the Saints.
Play 5: 3-15 at NO 20 yard line. Keke gets good push up the middle with a hand up but Bees flips it short to Kamara who goes for 22. Missed tackle attempts by Savage and a brutal whiff by Kirksey helped. Keke hustles on the play and was in position to tackle Kamara but he fell at Keke’s feet.
Plays 6-8: For his next three snaps the Saints run away from Keke. On two plays he is solid at the point of attack and gives no ground. On the third he is handled, stood up by Andrus Peat.
Play 9: Keke does not have time to penetrate as Brees quickly dumps the pass short to Hill, who is stopped short of the markers, forcing a field goal.
Play 10: Keke gets sweet revenge on 6 year Pro Bowl guard Andrus Peat by beating him one on one for his second sack. Keke feigns right and when Peat shifts his wait, Keke throws him aside with both hands and drives into Bees. This play would have had a greater impact if Za’Darius Smith is not called for what seemed like a phantom holding call on the next play, giving the Saints a first down.
Plays 11-13: The next three plays are all passes. Keke is facing double teams now on each play. He has no pressure on the first two but has a good push on the third.
Play 14: Keke executes a stunt to allow Preston Smith to come free. Keke executes well, tying up two blockers, but Smith is a step too late to get to Brees.
Plays 15-17: The last three plays of the half had Keke facing double teams on passes. While he kept his head up and rotated to Brees’ passing lanes, it was to no avail.
Plays 18-20: The first defensive snaps for Keke in the second half were runs. On the first he penetrates his gap and sits in it, the run cuts back to the other side for a short gain. The next two plays are also run away from Keke.
Play 21: A short pass. (surprise!) Keke does not get home.
Play 22: A pass to the TE. Keke gets past his blocker on a nice swim move. The RB stops him from collecting a third sack.
Play 23: Another flare pass to Kamara gets out too quickly for the rush to affect it.
Play 24: This is the first run play run right at Keke. While he does not make the tackle he is stout, not giving ground and plugging the intended hole. This was one of the few runs that held the Saints to a yard or less.
Plays 25-28: All three of these plays were pass plays late in the game. Keke does not get home but showed good push on his last play.
As promising as his two sack performance was, his stout play against the few runs directed his way show all around promise which Keke will need to make consistent contributions. The double teams he faced show the respect the Saints had for him after his two sacks. His next step will need to be learning how to be affective against double teams, lessons he can learn from Kenny Clark. While used mostly on pass rushing downs now, this type of performance against a quality opponent bodes well for more playing time in his future with the Packers.
Pick 150 in the draft where Gary was pick 12.
Paul, Thanks for the play by play analysis of Keke’s game against the Saints. As I said, in part, directly after the game Keke should be taking some snaps away from Lancaster and Lowry. It was more than just the sacks from Keke, Keke caused problems for the Saints o-line besides the sacks.
I look forward to seeing Clark and Keke play next to each other. Add in Z playing on the other side of Clark at times, and what is an O-line to do? It should be a good combination against A passer like Matt Ryan who tends to get a little more erratic when he gets a strong rush up the middle, but so do most QBs.
To put Keke’s Saints game in perspective I think LaFleur said it best
“It was a good step in the right direction and now that he’s done that one game, he’s got to build upon that, and that’s the expectation. Now that’s the standard that he has to live up to each and every game.”