New York Giants' fans always get excited about young linebackers who show potential, especially since there have not been a lot of those over the last decade or so. The latest player to grab the attention of the linebacker-starved fan base is Devon Kennard, the Giants' fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Let's take a closer look at Kennard as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp beginning July 21.
2013 Season In Review
Kennard completed a career at USC that saw him play middle linebacker, defensive end and outside linebacker. He spent the last two seasons splitting time between outside linebacker and defensive end. Kennard had 60 tackles (13 for loss) and nine sacks during his senior season with the Trojans.
Kennard fit one of the major requirements the Giants seem to have, that being versatility. They liked his ability to rush the passer, and to play both inside and outside linebacker. He has played both thus far, working as a backup middle linebacker and, with Jon Beason out and Jameel McClain moving inside to replace Beason, it was Kennard who took first-team reps during mini-camp in McClain's outside linebacker spot in the base defense.
"They gave me the opportunity and I'm taking advantage of it," Kennard said. "I just go out there and do everything I can every day and try to make plays and make an impact and show that I can do things to help the team.
"I'm spending hours and hours in the playbook every day, every night. I go home and I'm studying for hours so I get there and I get those live reps and it's getting easier and slowing down for me. I'm making more and more plays and making more of an impact and that's all I'm trying to do - play my part and show that I can help the team."
Giants' linebackers' coach Jim Herrmann indicated that it is Kennard's ability to learn multiple roles that is his best asset to the team:
"He's played all over so he's got multiple talents and he's a smart guy so it's not anything new for him. And he gives us a lot of flexibility. He has some rush ability so on third down he could actually be a rush-type guy. The flexibility helps us," Herrmann said. "As you go into the season there are 46 guys out there, normally the linebackers get maybe five guys so somebody has to know dual roles and we've always had guys that could do that. He'll give us that ability."
It has been a long time since the Giants drafted a real impact linebacker, the last one being Jessie Armstead way back in 1993. Could Kennard be the next one? It might be an awful lot to ask of a rookie fifth-round pick, but Kennard's progress undeniably bears watching.