Another "Drastic Step" from Kingsley Keke will Provide Major Boost

As the Green Bay Packers look to get over that NFC Championship hump, another big jump from Kingsley Keke will go a long way in helping them achieve that.

The mantra "get Kenny Clark some help" is something that Green Bay Packers fans have been clamoring for, for a few years now. With limited cap space, the Packers weren't very active in free agency this past offseason, and the moves they did make prioritized their own. Then in the draft with what was a weak interior defensive line class, the Packers didn't address the position until Round 5--and by the way, I absolutely love the TJ Slaton selection.
 
So, once again, with no new veteran additions made this offseason along the interior defensive line and a Day 3 pick -- who admittedly is a very exciting prospect given his size, athleticism, and positional fit, but early expectations should be tempered -- the Green Bay Packers are going to be relying on internal development, more specifically, Kingsley Keke.
 
After being the fifth option along the interior during his rookie season in 2019 with only 107 total defensive snaps, Keke saw his playing time increase drastically in his second season. Keke saw 414 total snaps, including 257 as a pass-rusher, totaling 22 pressures, the fifth most on the team, four sacks--including a pair of two-sack performances, and a forced fumble. 
 
To help measure the efficiency of a pass-rusher and show how truly effective they are, PFF has their pass-rush productivity metric, which measures the rate at which a defensive player creates quarterback pressures on a per snap basis with a heavier weighting towards sacks. For Keke last season, he ranked 28th out of 127 eligible interior defensive linemen in that category--certainly not bad at all. 
 
Unfortunately, Keke's 2020 season was cut short due to a concussion as he would miss Green Bay's Week 17 matchup as well as both playoff games. 
 
“I was hurting, honestly,” Keke told Olivia Reiner of Packers News. “I knew I was concussed, and then it was like, man, I'm out here playing football. I wanna be playing this week, you know? I want to be able to compete. Have fun with my teammates, especially in the playoffs. I just want to be in that. So it definitely hurt. I was going through a lot just mentally, and it sucked, man.”
 
Now fully healthy, Keke has been training hard this offseason and is up to 301 pounds compared to the 288 pounds that he entered the league at. His goal is to reach 305 and that all the weight he puts on is muscle so that he can stay effective and quick as a pass-rusher, but he wants to bulk up so he can provide more help against the run. Even going back to his days at Texas A&M, Keke has been known more as a pass-rusher than as a run defender. 
 
Improved play from the interior defensive line is not only going to help against the run and free up Kenny Clark from some double-teams -- which is always a good thing -- but it is going to have a positive trickle-down effect to the edge rushers as well as the linebackers--really just about everyone on the defensive side of the ball will benefit. As Ross Uglem of Packer Report pointed out on the 2021 Cheesehead TV Draft Guide, in this new Joe Barry defense, Keke projects as an ideal 4-tech penetrating defender.
 
For a Green Bay Packers team that is still looking to get over the NFC Championship hump, as they did a year ago, they are largely banking on the internal development of their younger players to get them to that elusive Super Bowl. And for Kingsley Keke, that means taking another big step in Year 3, just as he did in 2020. 
 
"Year 1 to Year 2 was a huge step," said Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery to the Green Bay media. "Year 3 should be another drastic step for him. Obviously affecting the quarterback, being more consistent in the run game, and just building his brand. That comes with all the hard work that he's put in during the offseason and that we're doing right now, and once fall camp comes. He's working and trending in the right direction. But definitely, I expect him to take a drastic step again this year."

---------------------

Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

NFL Categories: 
9 points

Comments (32)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
HawkPacker's picture

May 31, 2021 at 11:23 am

Great article Paul. I agree that Kingsley Keke could make a major jump this season if you look at the weight gain, additional year's experience and it appears that he has a great attitude. We really need him to make that jump and the DL is probably our biggest weakness outside of possible the ILB's.

I am hoping that we can get some 1st down play out of TJ Slaton this year to help stop the other team's running game. But really, imho we can't expect too much out of him this year and with preseason and a year's experience, hopefully next year will be his time to shine.

1 points
2
1
KenEllis's picture

May 31, 2021 at 02:08 pm

Pack just re-structured his contract to remove any doubt as to whether Dean Lowry would remain on the squad.

Gutey also re-signed his boy Tyler Lancaster.

With those two stalwarts coming back for a fourth straight year, the future remains very bright along the defensive line in Green Bay.

Nothing says Super Bowl defense like watching #s 94 and 95 dominate.

-5 points
2
7
Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:16 pm

No fan of Lowry but Lancaster is depth and no guarantee he makes the roster if others show up.

5 points
5
0
Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2021 at 07:26 pm

Whaaaa???

Have you ben concussed? Better get in the protocol my man.

I would love to see Lowry and Lancaster become difference makers, but Im certainly not gonna put any green on it.

1 points
1
0
BradHTX's picture

June 01, 2021 at 06:17 am

I think his comment is wanting the sarcasm font.

2 points
2
0
Razer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 11:39 am

All we can do is hope that some of these mid and lower round picks become starters at some point. The improvements on the D-line and ILB have been glacial for this team and have hampered the overall performance of the defense. We need both Kingsley and Slaton to progress just to be able to win in the trenches. If they can play better than league average our 'D' can be very good this year.

10 points
10
0
Archie's picture

May 31, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Kekely, Gary & Savage make the defensive side of the draft from 3 years ago one of the best in recent GBP history. And Elton Jenkins is a versatile stud on the offensive side of the ball.

Looking forward to AR situation resolving itself one way or the other and getting on with the 2021 team. Let's keep our fingers cross on our DC being just what the defense needs to put it all together.

9 points
9
0
HawkPacker's picture

May 31, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Yeah, IMHO, the new DC doesn't have a very good track record but LAF seemed to like him.

I hope he works out. We could have a really good team in 2021.

2 points
3
1
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:22 pm

Keke is the key - to the D-line not sucking this season. Ever since the departure of Daniels, opposing teams have only had to concern themselves with Kenny C. - who has been double-teamed to death. Should Keke provide (anywhere near) Daniels-like disruption and production - the D-line may actually become an asset. Certainly the greatest beneficiary will be Kenny C as he may have more room to operate. And we have all seen what happens when K.C. is given space. But with Keke establishing his presence on the D-line - another player who can benefit will be Dean Lowry. Now I'm not a fan of Lowry's (poor r.o.i.) but it was apparent that his 2 good years was when he played with Daniels. With Daniels departure, he then became exposed as a relatively pedestrian DE. However with KC and KK 'feasting' on an O-line - Lowry only needs to take care of the leftovers - like he did before.

4 points
4
0
Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:18 pm

If Keke is good enough, and really has added lower body strength to match his upper body then Lowry should get less snaps. That would be a win

2 points
2
0
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:39 pm

Yes - the less is more theorem! Yet the one positive that Lowry offers is durability /reliability. I'm thinking that there is a minimum number of snaps that you would want Lowry on the field - in terms of relief and scheme - that he actually would not suck. I see this as largely an algebraic problem - finding that "x "(no. of snaps) value in the most optimal formula for the d-line.

2 points
2
0
Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:50 pm

He’s by all accounts a very decent individual and works hard. I agree he has always been available. He’s just not good enough to be a majority of snaps player. He might actually improve if used to spell and fill in. A more robust Keke could be the difference.

2 points
2
0
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 08:32 pm

That's what I'm hoping for as well. I have had sport with Lowry but my only real issue with him is that he is not representative of a 7m/yr. player. Because the optimal allocation of monies is so important in the salary cap era - over payments are critical. If Lowry was a bench or rotational player at 2m/yr. - you wouldn't hear a peep from me. Then again, I can't blame Lowry for signing his large contract. The fault is with the Packers for mis-scouting him. It seems that Lowry will be a reality on the Packers d-line this year - so I'm just hoping that Keke will do for Lowry what Daniels did - somehow make him a better player.

2 points
2
0
Ferrari-Driver's picture

May 31, 2021 at 08:38 pm

I sure hope Kenny Clark remains healthy and is able to go full bore every single game. He is the heart and sole of our defensive line.

5 points
5
0
porupack's picture

May 31, 2021 at 01:13 pm

I think you are missing the word "only" after the word "not", to form "not only...", correct?
>>> "....Improved play from the interior defensive line is not going to help against...." <<<<

0 points
0
0
greengold's picture

May 31, 2021 at 01:13 pm

I like Kingsley Keke, felt he was a bit of a steal in R5 #150, having had an R3-4 grade in the 2019 NFL Draft. That concussion he had, taking him out of our playoff games really hurt, as we had no depth there.

Hopefully, Keke is able to return strong, healthy, and have a great season. Sounds like he added some pounds, and looks good, which is encouraging.

4 points
4
0
porupack's picture

May 31, 2021 at 01:14 pm

I guess the GB Staff is thinking like you are, that Keke will develop into a 3 down difference maker.

Like every year, it seems GBP is 2 players away from a complete team; and like every year it seems right there: IDL and ILB. Perhaps the year 2 leap happens for the Barnes/Martins/Kekes then....its probably a new chapter for GB Defense.

Seems like Harrison (snacks) might have been worth a consideration. Wondering if Gute waits until August cut-downs, and perhaps can pick up a cheap vet FA on the Interior line, to double down on finally solving this.

2 points
3
1
packer132's picture

May 31, 2021 at 01:45 pm

"Snacks" Harrison was looking for $5 million a year a few months ago, and I don't see a motivated guy. Packers should be able to pick from other team's roster cuts in July and get a player or two. Maybe a LB as well.

4 points
4
0
stockholder's picture

May 31, 2021 at 01:38 pm

Not so fast.- Lowrey and KeKe have a label. " It's not so much." Look at the legs. Their thin. If they both are over 300 pounds, Where are they hiding it? I say don't believe whats in the program. I say this DL is to light. And the smallish size; is what will keep them from being champions. So lets get down to business here. If you want DEs. Thats fine. But not in this 3-4-4. I'll take the Beef up front first. Pickett, raja, and even Daniels pushed 310- 340. Clark needs help. He's the only guy over 310. These guys will get pushed around. And watch them play like Jane. If Chita was here, he would laugh at Boy. Because these boys are not going to stop any blocking, done right. The packers depend on the Smiths to much, because of it. The Packers need a FREAK on this DL. And a big one. Somebody else to take the double team, and shove it right back in the Qbs lap. So after years of trying to straighten out the DL. Gute now says were close to being dominate. And I'm suppose to jump on the KE KE bandwagon and praise Gute. Why? For letting it go on this long. And believing in hype, over achievement. Put Dillions legs on them, and maybe I'll believe you.

-7 points
3
10
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:19 pm

Keke is now over 300lbs - with improved lower body development. The Packers just drafted an interior lineman who is 330lbs - who is likely to see spot duty this year. Kenny C. is 314 lbs. While at DE Lowry is a stout 296 lbs. (in comparison, at the DE position, Aaron Donald is 280 lbs). So legs...?

4 points
4
0
Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2021 at 03:51 pm

I’d like to see Anthony Rush Involved and letting Clark play some DE alongside a DT who can move the pocket not just clog (Lancaster). Will be watching him and how they use him in camp.

4 points
4
0
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 05:02 pm

Rush may be a wild card. And at 6'5'' - 350 lbs., I doubt he has "thin legs." He may even get the call before Slaton this year - which would provide more development time for him (Slaton). And Clark unbridled at DE might be a sight to behold. Certainly more possibilities with the DL this year, than last.

3 points
3
0
stockholder's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:14 pm

So when did the Rams win the Super-Bowl? 20 years ago.! How dare you compare anybody to Donald. He knows how to play DE.

0 points
1
1
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:52 pm

So you're saying that you can be an undersized DE but still know how to play the position? Ok - thank you for the clarification.

0 points
0
0
stockholder's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:48 pm

Not in THIS 3-4-4

0 points
1
1
Coldworld's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:54 pm

Who dares wins.

-1 points
0
1
Alberta_Packer's picture

May 31, 2021 at 06:59 pm

If you recall, there is a new DC for the Packers. We have yet to see what this season's defense will look like - except it's highly unlikely that it will be last year's.

0 points
0
0
Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2021 at 07:32 pm

love the chita-boy game and transfixing Dillons legs... pure genius!

-1 points
0
1
cms's picture

May 31, 2021 at 05:06 pm

God, I hope so! And I hope the coaches put him on the field. Tired of seeing Dean go backwards.

2 points
2
0
Stroh's picture

May 31, 2021 at 11:56 pm

I really don't see any jump from Keke last yr. 2 sacks in each of 2 games isn't very productive at all. Where the heck was he the other 14 games?! Taking the day off it would seem.

You also have to wonder who they were against? Probably just a good day against another poor player. I would love for him to take a huge jump, but I have doubts he even had a jump last year, unless someone can tell me he beat a good NFL starter.

-1 points
1
2
Roadrunner23's picture

June 01, 2021 at 09:50 am

Watch out! Keke comin! This is gonna be his breakout year!

1 points
1
0
greengold's picture

June 01, 2021 at 09:56 am

I like it, nostradanus. Completely understand what Stroh is saying, but, I like it. Hoping for the best from him. Really, the guy needed the functional strength a good 13 pound addition to his frame could bring. You could see that with how he was playing.

I thought Kingsley Keke kind of hit that sophomore slump last season. Hope that's all it was, because we need better players on our DL.

To this day, I don't understand the Lowry/Lancaster stuff. I would have jettisoned both of them prior to the 2020 season.

0 points
0
0