The New York Giants talked about two things when they selected USC linebacker Devon Kennard in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft -- his versatility and intelligence. Perhaps then it should be no surprise that the Giants have begun Kennard at two positions, SAM and MIKE linebacker.
"We feel like he's a versatile player. He's a nine-sack guy, led the team in sacks. He played middle linebacker at one point for them and then they moved him outside with the coaching change so we think he can play all three positions for us," said GM Jerry Reese. "He can be a rusher, a situational pass rusher for us and obviously play on all of the special teams."
"When he came and visited with us he made a great impression. He's played multiple positions. He's a tough, hard-nosed football player. He was great on the board, he did an excellent job of that," said head coach Tom Coughlin. "He really convinced the coaches that he was a really sharp football player, a multiple position guy, a guy that would come in here and play the linebacker position for us, which is what he'll do."
"You always like versatile players, and just the fact that he was able to do that and transition to those positions easily each year shows you his football sense and IQ and that was one of the most intriguing things when we had him here was his ability to communicate about all positions up on the front. It was very impressive," said Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross.
Given his druthers, Kennard would play SAM exclusively.
"SAM linebacker is the position that I feel most comfortable with. That's what I did last year. But that's because I did it last year, I feel like I can come on the inside as well. I definitely have a passion for rushing the passer, passing situations and things like that but I can also cover and do things like that," Kennard said.
In his film study of Kennard, 'Raptor' concluded the Giants "got an intelligent, instinctive, high-effort linebacker who can have an impact in run defense, pass coverage, and rushing the passer. He isn't a spectacular athlete, and that gets exposed at times. Within his range, however, he is certainly effective."
The Giants are always starving for linebackers who can make plays. It will be interesting to see if Kennard can develop into one.