Doing the dirty work in the trenches is often an unacknowledged endeavor as skill players typically occupy the headlines with splash plays. However, the production of Buccaneers' first-year player Ko Kieft against the Colts deserves recognition. In the preseason finale at Lucas Oil Stadium, Kieft spearheaded the rushing attack.
In the second quarter, Kieft made his mark. From first-and-10 at the Colts' 13, Kieft lined up at fullback and paved the way for Ke'Shawn Vaughn on a 12-yard gain. He served as the lead blocker and drove the defender back, creating a crease for Vaughn up the middle. Two plays later, Kieft lined up behind Fred Johnson and used his body to seal off a running lane for Vaughn to push his way into the end zone. Since signing his rookie contract, Kieft has taken advantage of reps throughout the offseason. His prowess as a blocker adds another dimension to Byron Leftwich's offensive attack. Whether it is a goal-line or short-yardage situation, Kieft can fortify the unit. His competitive demeanor on the field has motivated teammates, including Rachaad White.
"Ko Kieft is a dawg – that is what he adds," White said. "He adds a different mentality; just a brewzer. [He is] a guy that is just going to open up holes and stick his hand, stick his neck and his body on the line for you to do his job. So, a guy like that makes you want to do your job more and stick your body on the line for him, as well."
While at Minnesota, Kieft garnered the term "blocking specialist" by scouts and analysts for his ability to block at the second level and in space. In terms of imposing his will on defenders, Kieft became one of the best tight ends in the country for Minnesota's run-heavy offensive system. Kieft had experience lining up in-line, as an h-back and occasionally in the slot. At the pro level throughout training camp and the preseason, Kieft routinely stuck out on tape with his physicality at the point of attack in a variety of packages up front. As injuries pile up for the Bucs' offensive line, Kieft's effectiveness as a blocker provides insurance. Smash-mouth football may be a pastime in the NFL but Kieft's play in the modern era embodies that style.