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Packers 2019 Acquisitions: Kingsley Keke starts quiet, but shows signs of promise

The Packers’ one rookie lineman did not play much in 2019, but there are reasons for optimism.

NFL: OCT 27 Packers at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. Today we continue this series by looking at the defensive line.

Through the 2019 offseason, the Green Bay Packers’ defensive line personnel largely stayed static from the first year to the second under coordinator Mike Pettine. The Muhammad Wilkerson experiment fizzled out quickly in 2018 when he suffered a season-ending injury, but the Packers seemed to be in good shape heading into 2019.

The Packers did add one player in the 2019 NFL Draft, using a third-day pick on a versatile and athletic player. That added depth may have been part of the reason the Packers surprisingly parted ways with a long-time stalwart on their line, Mike Daniels, just before the start of training camp.

That new addition had only a modest impact in his rookie year, but he will look to expand his production heading into year two in the NFL.

Kingsley Keke

How Acquired: Fifth-round draft pick in 2019 (#150 overall)
Contract: Four years, $2.833 million total, $313k signing bonus
Stats: 14 games played; 10 total tackles, 1 QB hit

The Packers have high hopes for Keke, an athletic interior disruptor who played all over the defensive line in college. Keke lined up everywhere from the nose to a conventional 4-3 defensive end position at Texas A&M, but in Green Bay he settled into the 5-technique and 3-technique alignments.

After being inactive for each of the first two games of the season, Keke gradually began to earn a handful of snaps here and there, with his high mark of 15 snaps coming in week 13 against the New York Giants. However, Keke’s best statistical game was in the NFC Championship against the 49ers, when he recorded three total tackles, including one for a loss.

All told, Keke played just 94 defensive snaps and nine special teams plays in the regular season, primarily sitting as the fifth man in the rotation. Given that Mike Pettine regularly deployed just two defensive linemen on the field, playing time was hard to come by. Still, as Andy Herman of Packer Report noted, Keke showed some flashes to build on as he looks to take on a more prominent role in his second season:

All but one of the players ahead of Keke on the depth chart remain under contract for 2020, meaning that Keke will need to earn an increase in snaps rather than receiving it by default. But with a full offseason focusing on his specific roles in the Packers’ defense, look for him to be a more prominent player on this unit next fall and beyond.