NFL Nation: Thomas Keiser

No Abraham would be a blow to defense

September, 10, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. – It's a good thing Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn't have any hair.

If he did, he'd pull it all out after this week.

Arians got more bad news Tuesday about his defense, the foundation for last year's second-half run. John Abraham, who suffered the first reported concussion of his 15-year career during Monday night's victory over the San Diego Chargers, took a leave of absence Tuesday. He has five days to decide if he'll return to the team or hang it up for this season and possibly for good.

There's a personal side to this that renders football meaningless. A man who dedicated his life to the sport has been plagued by memory loss for more than a year, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

And, of course, there's also a football side. Without Abraham, the Cardinals' defense takes another hit, having already lost a pair of inside linebackers, Daryl Washington (suspension) and Karlos Dansby (free agency) and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (injury). Through one game, Arizona's ability to absorb the losses has been impressive.

Take those four and add safety Yeremiah Bell, whom the Cardinals didn't re-sign during the offseason, and Arizona has lost 49.9 percent of its tackles from a year ago and 56 percent of its sacks.

Losing Abraham for the year might be the knockout punch.

With him on the field last season, opposing quarterbacks had a completion percentage of 57.5 percent compared to 62.9 percent when he wasn't on the field. The Cardinals had 42 sacks, 20 turnovers and 16 interceptions with Abraham and five sacks, seven turnovers and four interceptions without him.

Sam Acho will be charged with filling in if Abraham decides not to return. With Alex Okafor still recovering from a thigh injury, the Cardinals are thin at outside linebacker. Behind Acho and fellow starter Matt Shaughnessy will be Thomas Keiser and Marcus Benard, who was added with the roster exemption given to the Cardinals in Abraham's case. Beyond that, Arizona also could use Lorenzo Alexander, who started the first three games of last season at outside linebacker but was replaced by Abraham when he got injured in Week 3.

"It's the next guy in there," Arians said. "Each guy is individual. John has his moves, which they've been pretty good for a long time. Sam has his and Sam has a high motor. Matt, even Marcus got around the quarterback during camp, so that's something that doesn't change anything you do."

Keiser, who saw more playing time Monday after Abraham went down, will have a larger role in New York against the Giants, Arians said. When a player of Abraham's caliber is on the field, Keiser said teams tend to game plan for them, which in turn helps other pass-rushers.

Combined, the group that's up next combined for 11 sacks last season -- a half-sack less than Abraham. That needs to improve if Arizona has plans of playing in January. The Cardinals were held without a sack in Week 1 for the first time since the 2013 opener, a run of 15 straight games.

"We just need production," Alexander said. "Everybody's going to be a little bit different. You don't have a whole bunch of John Abrahams just walking around here.

"Whether I get three or four sacks, Marcus gets three or four sacks, as long as we get that same type of production whether it comes from one guy or five guys, that's all that matters."
SAN DIEGO -- Running back Ryan Mathews was one of two players listed as not practicing on the San Diego Chargers' injury report Wednesday.

Mathews wore a protective boot on his injured left ankle coming off of the field at the end of practice. But he says that everything is fine. Mathews did not practice most of last week but still played against Kansas City, rushing for a season-high 144 yards on 24 carries.

"I'm fine," Mathews said. "I'm good. You just have to stay in it mentally."

Along with Mathews, receiver Eddie Royal (toe) did not practice. But both are expected to play Sunday in Cincinnati.

Defensive linemen Sean Lissemore (shoulder) and Kendal Reyes (ankle) were limited in practice.

Outside linebacker Thomas Keiser did not make himself available to reporters in the locker room after practice to discuss his recent arrest.

San Diego coach Mike McCoy said the team is handling Keiser's situation internally. Keiser did practice Wednesday and is expected to play on Sunday.

"We discussed it early Monday morning -- that's the first thing we did in the team meeting," McCoy said. "We addressed it, said 'Here's how we're handling it.' And we're moving on."

Keiser, 24, was arrested over the weekend on a misdemeanor battery charge after an altercation with another man in a restaurant that turned into a fight Sunday after San Diego's overtime win over Kansas City.

"Thomas is our teammate, our family and we support him," safety Eric Weddle said. "And until they figure all of that out we're worried about the Bengals."

Role players step up on Chargers' D

December, 16, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- Because of injury or poor performance, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano has constantly juggled his starting lineup and defensive rotations this season.

[+] EnlargeThomas Keiser
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackThomas Keiser is tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks.
Some of the lineup changes have been a reaction to the type of offense his team faces from week to week. For example, in a win against at Denver last week, the Chargers mostly used a lineup of five defensive backs to match up with the Broncos' up-tempo passing attack.

The Chargers used a total of 16 players on defense against the Broncos. Recently, Pagano’s rotations have produced better results. San Diego’s allowed just 13.7 points per contest in the team’s last three games, two of which were wins for the Chargers.

“Play with a physical mindset, play a physical game and play with effort,” Pagano said have been points of emphasis in improving his unit’s performance. “Those are the things that take defensive players or defensive units to the next level, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Against Denver, the Chargers have held the explosive Broncos’ offense to an average of 24 points a contest in two games.

“They’ve got one of the best offenses in the history of the game,” San Diego coach Mike McCoy said about his defense’s effort against the Broncos. “They’re very explosive, and everybody knows what they can do. So give John Pagano and his staff a ton of credit. That’s an outstanding performance by the defense.”

These role players on defense have stood out for the Chargers this season.

OLB Thomas Keiser: The Stanford University product began the season on the practice squad. But after season-ending injuries to Dwight Freeney and Larry English, Keiser was added to the active roster in Week 5 and took on more of a role as a third down pass-rusher. He’s tied for the team lead with a career-high 4.5 sacks and corralled his first interception of the season against Denver on Thursday. At 6-4 and 260 pounds, Kaiser has enough speed and strength to get home off of the edge and is improving his pass coverage skills.

LB Reggie Walker: Pagano calls him Mr. Opportunity. Signed by San Diego just before the season began on Sept. 2 after he was released by Arizona during final roster cuts, Walker has played all four linebacker positions for the Chargers. The Kansas State product has started in four games. Walker has 41 tackles, three sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

S Jahleel Addae: An undrafted rookie free agent out Central Michigan, Addae played mostly when the Chargers put six defensive backs on the field in obvious passing situations. However, Addae made his first start against Denver last week, finishing with two tackles. Addae has 31 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on the year.

CB Richard Marshall: The eight-year veteran took over for a struggling Derek Cox at cornerback three weeks ago, helping to stabilize the back end of San Diego’s defense. Marshall has 51 tackles and six pass breakups on the season.

DE Sean Lissemore: Picked up in a trade with the Cowboys this season for a seventh-round pick, Lissemore helped anchor a run defense that allowed just 18 rushing yards to Denver last week. Lissemore has 21 tackles, two sacks and an interception on the year.

RG III helps propel Redskins

November, 3, 2013
LANDOVER, Md. -- Robert Griffin III vowed to run safer this season. He also said when situations called for him to take a chance he would take it.

That’s what happened Sunday in the Washington Redskins' 30-24 overtime win versus the San Diego Chargers. Late in the third quarter with the Redskins facing a third and 9 from the Chargers’ 46, Griffin scrambled around the right end. He could have run out of bounds to save himself but opted for the hard route, one that ended with him getting crunched. But also the option that Washington the first down.

It helped that running back Roy Helu blocked linebacker Reggie Walker. Linebacker Thomas Keiser was flying at him from the inside. Griffin launched himself forward.

“You just have to make a decision,” Griffin said. “A lot of people criticize me for that type of stuff all the time and I could have gone out of bounds and we could have been short of the first down. I saw an opportunity to fly, so I got my wings and tried to fly. I hit the ground pretty hard, so you know people, we really can’t fly. No matter how much we dream about it, but I saw the opportunity and at that point in the game I thought we needed it and that’s why I took it.”

The Redskins ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive to take a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“I thought that was the play of the game,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of Griffin’s dive. “We needed to get that first down. He gave up his body and he didn’t care about getting out of bounds. He just cared about finding a way to keep the drive going and that’s what you have to do every once in a while. A guy says, ‘Hey, we need this play,’ and he made it happen.”

It enabled Griffin to bounce back after a mediocre first half in which he completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards, but no touchdowns and an interception. He completed 13-of-17 for 179 yards in the second half.

“I thought he was cool, calm and collected out there,” Shanahan said. “He played hard and competed. It wasn’t a perfect game but I was proud of how he bounced back [from Denver]. The one run was typical of his mindset going into the game. You don’t see very many players make that play.”
An examination of four hot issues from the San Diego Chargers27-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Tony Avelar/AP PhotoManti Te'o has the maturity and smarts to handle heavy adversity, Chargers GM Tom Telesco said.
Te’o needs to play free: After playing just 14 snaps in his regular-season debut last week, San Diego rookie linebacker Manti Te'o saw significantly more time against the Raiders. Te’o finished with a combined five tackles but did not make any of the game-changing plays that he became known for at Notre Dame. “I’ve got to do a better job,” Te’o said. “Personally, for me, I can’t take that long to get into a groove of things. I’m just thinking too much. When you think, you stink. As a rookie you’re trying so hard not to make a mistake, but sometimes by taking that mentality, you end up making mistakes anyway. So I need to just let the game flow and just go out there and play football.”

Turnovers still an issue: The Chargers have a minus-eight turnover differential through five games, tied for fourth-worst in the NFL, after turning it over five times against the Raiders. San Diego has forced just two turnovers this season while giving up the ball 10 times. And San Diego’s defensive backfield still does not have an interception. The Chargers will not be a consistent winner until they do a better job in this important statistical area.

Freeney’s absence noticeable: The Chargers sacked Terrelle Pryor four times, but none in the first half as the Raiders jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Starting outside linebacker Jarret Johnson did a nice job of picking up the slack with the team’s best pass-rusher, Dwight Freeney, done for the year after suffering a torn quadriceps injury last week. Johnson finished with two sacks, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. However, Freeney’s replacement, Larry English, finished with just two tackles, and did not make an impact as a pass-rusher. Thomas Keiser, the team’s backup edge rusher, had one tackle in limited duty. “There was definitely more I could have done,” English said. “It wasn’t a good enough showing for me, personally, and we know as a team it’s wasn’t good enough.”

Allen a draft steal: While first-round selections Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins have received more attention nationally, San Diego’s Keenan Allen is quickly developing into one of the most productive rookie receivers this season. Allen was targeted by Philip Rivers nine times against Oakland, finishing with six catches for 115 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown catch. Allen posted this impressive performance a week after totaling five catches for 80 yards in a win against Dallas last week. NFL scouts questioned Allen’s speed and ability to create separation at the next level because he's 6-foot-2, 211 pounds. But the Chargers grabbed the physical receiver out of California in the third round, and he’s averaging a healthy 16.1 yards per catch this season. He's also earned the trust of Rivers.
The San Diego Chargers added four defensive players Sunday.

The team claimed defensive lineman Drake Nevis from the Indianapolis Colts and linebacker Terrell Manning from the Green Bay Packers. Earlier in the day, the team traded a 2015 conditional seventh-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for defensive tackle Sean Lissemore, and signed linebacker and special-teams standout Reggie Walker. He was with Arizona.

Nevis is a good player who should help the defensive line depth. He was in Indianapolis with first-year San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. I think he can be a good player. All four of the players should help with depth and help San Diego’s special teams. it was poor in the preseason.

The Chargers added three players to the practice squad: tackle Nick Becton, linebacker Thomas Keiser and cornerback Marcus Cromartie. They were all cut by the team Saturday. The Chargers have five more openings on the practice squad.
The San Diego Chargers signed a pass-rusher in its attempt to bolster their roster after losing 2012 first-round pick Melvin Ingram for the season with a torn ACL.

No, the team didn’t add Dwight Freeney. Not yet, at least.

The Chargers announced they signed Thomas Keiser. The Stanford product spent the past two seasons in Carolina. He played a total of 12 games. His season was cut short after four games last year.

Keiser does have some pass-rushing ability. He had four sacks in eight games as a rookie. So, there is potential there. Keiser will have a chance to earn a roster spot to provide depth.

Still, the team has a need for a reliable replacement for Ingram. Freeney visited Wednesday and Thursday, and the team remains interested in him.
Time to check in on the most significant injuries for Sunday’s game involving NFC South teams.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) will be a game-time decision, according to assistant head coach Joe Vitt. But Graham seemed to progress as the week went on and I think there’s a decent chance he’ll play Sunday at Denver. Vitt also said linebacker David Hawthorne (hamstring) will be a game-time decision. Hawthorne missed a lot more practice time than Graham, so it might be another week before we see him.

Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) is listed as probable. He’s going to have to play a lot because backup Antwan Applewhite (knee) is out and Thomas Keiser (elbow) is doubtful.

The Falcons declared receiver Harry Douglas (ankle/knee) will be out for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia. That means the Falcons will have to turn to either Drew Davis or Kevin Cone as their third receiver. Right guard Garrett Reynolds (back) is listed as questionable. That could clear the way for rookie Peter Konz to get his first start.

Observation deck: Panthers-Steelers

August, 30, 2012
Let's run through some quick observations on the Panthers' 17-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Thursday night's preseason finale:
  • Coach Ron Rivera held out just about all of his starters and it showed. Charlie Batch and Pittsburgh’s offense went right through Carolina’s defense for a touchdown on the first drive of the night. But let’s keep in mind this wasn’t Carolina’s rebuilt -- and healthy -- first-team defense.
  • Veteran backup Derek Anderson got the start at quarterback and played the first half. Jimmy Clausen replaced him. The Panthers already have decided Anderson will be Cam Newton's backup. I've been back and forth on whether or not the Panthers should even keep Clausen, a second-round draft pick in 2010, on the roster. After watching Clausen in extended playing time, I say keep him around. Clausen wasn't flawless, but he showed more than I've seen out of him in a long time (maybe since his Notre Dame days). He led the Panthers on a long touchdown drive on his first series. He also threw a long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. I had been thinking the Panthers might be better off letting Clausen go, keeping only two quarterbacks on the active roster and bringing in a developmental project on the practice squad. But I think Clausen showed he still has some upside. I'd keep him around, just in case something happens to Newton or Anderson. If it does, I'd rather see Clausen than some developmental guy.
  • The Panthers have gone to great lengths to improve the special teams. But I think there’s still reason for concern. It was negated by a penalty, but Pittsburgh’s Chris Rainey had what should have been a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown.
  • One guy who continues to impress me is defensive end Thomas Keiser. He’s done some good things earlier in the preseason and he did it again against the Steelers. Keiser swatted down a Batch pass at the line of scrimmage. I think Keiser’s emergence was a big reason why Eric Norwood was released earlier in the week.
  • I think receiver Joe Adams makes the team, mostly because the team used a fourth-round pick on him. But I think the Panthers might go slowly with Adams, who was a contender for some work as a return man. But I think Adam’s muffed punt return and lost fumble could prompt the Panthers to bring him along slowly. He did have a 20-yard punt return at the end of the first half.
  • Speaking of rookie receivers, it’s going to be difficult to cut undrafted free agent Jared Green. He had a nice training camp and caught a touchdown pass from Clausen on Thursday night. I think the numbers make it almost impossible to keep Green on the 53-man roster. But I think he’s a strong candidate for the practice squad.
  • The quick conclusion when the Panthers released veteran Olindo Mare was that Justin Medlock would be their kicker. He still might be. But Medlock missed two field-goal attempts on Thursday. Neither was a chip shot, but you still have to wonder if the Panthers might watch the waiver wire for kickers.

Observation deck: Dolphins-Panthers

August, 17, 2012

Some quick observations on the Carolina Panthers’ 23-17 victory against the Miami Dolphins on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium:
  • At least for one half, the Panthers looked a lot like the New Orleans Saints. The first-team offense put up 20 points and the stat sheet looked a lot like it does when the Saints are in top form -- everyone gets involved. Both the running game and passing game were clicking. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert were effective on early runs and made an impact as receivers. Quarterback Cam Newton spread the ball around to Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen. Newton completed 8 of 11 passes for 119 yards with one touchdown.
  • The offensive line had a very good night. Newton had strong protection, especially on long passes to Olsen and LaFell early in the game.
  • With Newton, you almost expect Carolina’s offense to be good. So the real bright spot of this game might have been the defense. The Dolphins didn’t pick up a first down until late in the first quarter and scored only seven points in the first half.
  • There was a scary moment in the second quarter. Stewart, who signed a five-year contract extension last week, seemed to hurt his knee. He stayed down briefly and walked out without much difficulty. But he left the field a moment later, surrounded by members of the medical staff. Team officials told the media Stewart suffered a calf injury that is not believed to be serious.
  • Defensive end Thomas Keiser appears to be well on his way to solidifying a roster spot. Keiser produced two sacks in the first half.
  • I’d like to see third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen get to play behind the first -- or even the second -- offensive line. Coaches and team officials say Clausen had a very nice training camp, but he hasn’t had a chance to do much of anything behind the third-string offensive line.
  • The Panthers were penalized 17 times for 145 yards. I'm sure that will be a topic of conversation when they return to practice.

Panthers clean up waiver wire

September, 4, 2011
As expected, the Carolina Panthers are not sitting still a day after trimming their roster to 53 players.

The Panthers hit the waiver wire hard Sunday, claiming five players at positions of need.

The Panthers claimed wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu from San Diego, defensive back Stevie Brown from Oakland, nose tackle Marcus Harrison from Chicago, defensive end George Selvie from St. Louis and defensive back Josh Thomas from Dallas.

To make room for them, the Panthers waived defensive end Everette Brown, guard Bryant Browning, receiver David Clowney and defensive end Thomas Keiser. The Panthers also released veteran safety Kevin Payne.

Stay tuned, because it’s likely the Panthers are not done yet. They still have a big need at right guard after losing Geoff Schwartz and Garry Williams to season-ending injuries. They likely are in the market for a veteran at that position.
The Carolina Panthers just sent out their official list of the undrafted rookie free agents they have signed. Here it is.