The New York Giants have been taking a Band-Aid approach to the linebacker position for a decade or more, filling in with under-the-radar free agents and late-round draft picks. The have been hoping to strike gold without using lots of money or high draft choices to do it. When they selected Devon Kennard in the fifth round in 2014 it looked like they might FINALLY have found a young, play-making linebacker of their own to develop.
Let's take a look at Kennard, who remains the Giants' best hope for having an inside linebacker, as he enters his third NFL season. This is the latest in our series of player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2015 Season in Review
Kennard was not nearly as impactful in his sophomore season as he had been as a rookie. After recovering from a hamstring injury as a rookie, Kennard played in 12 games with six starts. He came up with 4.5 sacks, all in his last five games, had four passes defensed and 43 total tackles.
In 2015, injuries again nagged Kennard as he played in only nine games. He wasn't nearly as effective, with no sacks, just one pass defensed and 58 total tackles. The defense as a whole, of course, wasn't good. Kennard, though, seemed unable to make the leap the Giants hoped for in his sophomore season.
2016 Season Outlook
Kennard's work ethic, preparation, physical talent and knowledge of the game are beyond reproach. Former Giant Jon Beason used to rave about the way Kennard prepared himself. The question for Kennard is not ability, it's health. Staying on the field has been an issue for him, going all the way back to his days at USC. If he can stay healthy, Kennard can be a play-making three-down linebacker who can hold the edge against the run as a SAM, pass rush on occasion and do a decent job covering in the short areas.
If Kennard can't stay healthy, the Giants will be back to mixing and matching and hoping for the best from an otherwise average group of veteran linebackers.