Keiaho's Proving That He's Special
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Posted Dec 18, 2006

Colts rookie linebacker Freddy Keiaho is making his presence known in the NFL with some terrific special teams work while he continues to prepare for his opportunity to become a starting linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts.

Colts president Bill Polian expressed his concern this past week about the play of his linebackers against the Jaguars last Sunday.

"They’re supposed to enter holes," he explained. "We did not do a good job of entering Sunday and we didn’t enter with any kind of ferocity or punch whatsoever in the vast majority of cases."

And Polian even inferred that it's part of the reason that the safeties have been getting so banged up this year.

"I can’t count on the fingers of two hands and both feet the number of saving tackles that the safeties have had to make downfield this year against the run," he said.  "You don’t ask a 205- or 210-pound player to fill a gap that’s three yards wide and tackle a running back that’s had a 10- to 12-yard head start."

Patiently waiting his turn on the depth chart is 2006 third-round draft pick Freddy Keiaho, who packs plenty of punch as was apparent when he filled in for middle linebacker Gary Brackett earlier this year during the second half against the Patriots. And Keiaho continues to impress weekly with his special teams work. A fan called into Polian's radio show and asked if we might see the charismatic linebacker out of San Diego State and even Rob Morris get more playing time. And although the Colts president said, "...yes, I would think you’ll see them play some before we reach the playoffs," Keiaho hasn't yet heard anything yet.

"I'd be glad to get more playing time, but I haven't heard anything," said Keiaho. But he suspects that Polian's reference was most likely one made out of the expectation that as the team wraps up their playoff position, he and other reserves would naturally see more playing time over the next couple of weeks.

(AP/John Harrell)

In the meantime, Keiaho has been emerging as one of the team's best special teams coverage players. His speed, pursuit skills and open-field tackling ability has helped him post 11 special teams tackles, putting him in a tie with Ryan LaCasse as the top performing rookie in that category -- and he's tied for fourth on the team overall. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that ten of his eleven tackles were solo efforts. And with two forced fumbles to his credit, the only player on the team with more at this point in the season is starting defensive end Robert Mathis with four.

Keiaho's first-season results are even more surprising when you stop to remember that he severely injured his knee during a preseason contest against the Rams. The knee still hasn't bounced back one hundred percent yet, but Keiaho says it's close.

The energetic rookie watched from the sidelines last week as the Jaguars ran up a shocking 375 yards rushing while starter Gilbert Gardner and then reserve linebacker Rocky Boiman did their best to try to stop Jacksonville's running back tandem of Fred Taylor and Maurice Drew Jones. It didn't go so well.

Reports out of Indianapolis indicated that the team gave reserve middle linebacker Rob Morris some reps at strongside this week as they continued to search for solutions.

"Anytime you give up that many rushing yards, it's embarrassing," Keiaho said. "But this is a team of fighters, and we've proven that we can win games.

"We don't need to make big changes to our defense, we just have to execute better. And that goes for our special teams, too. That kickoff return for a touchdown that we gave up in the second half killed our momentum while trying to get back in the game. That was a big play by the Jaguars."

But Maurice Jones-Drew breaking loose for that score was largely due to the former UCLA player's talent level according to Keiaho.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit," he said. "He just came out like a bolt of lightning, he's a really explosive returns man. He saw a crease, and he hit it really hard and fast, and no one was able to catch him."

Prior to that, Colts punter Hunter Smith had a punt blocked for the first time since the 2003 season, largely due to a simple mistake by those trying to protect him.

"We had a line stunt on, and some of the guys ran into each other," Keiaho explained about the rare miscue. "That effected the line stunt and allowed that defender to get out of the gate like that."

In one of the few highlights from that game, safety Matt Giordano kept that play from translating into points when he picked off Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard in the end zone.

"They had ball inside our thirty (after the blocked punt), so anytime you can come away without giving up any points in a situation like that, it's a great feeling," Keiaho said.

On Monday night, the Colts host the Cincinnati Bengals who could move ahead of a number of teams that are in the wildcard hunt in the AFC with a win. Indianapolis has had a week to stew on the most distasteful loss they've experienced in a very long time. Keiaho was short and to the point about what it would take to get back on track.

"Playing our brand of football. Playing hard, good fundamental football," he said.

And while he'll be out there giving it his all on special teams, he'll also be ready to contribute at linebacker if his number is called. And he doesn't even care which linebacker position they want him to play.

"Whatever they need me to do," he said.  "Our system isn't that complicated, it doesn't require a lot of thinking. It's a defense where you can just play."

And there's one thing that Freddy Keiaho has made very clear this year since arriving in Indianapolis.

He knows how to play.

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Colts Q&A With Freddy Keiaho
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Colts Q&A With Freddy Keiaho, Part 2
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Colts Q&A With LB Freddy Keiaho
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