When Devon Kennard was a rookie linebacker in 2014 he flashed play-making and pass-rushing potential that excited New York Giants fans. His 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and 43 tackles in 12 games (six starts) made Giants fans dare to dream that the long wait for an impact linebacker secured via the NFL Draft was finally over.
Well, Kennard has been a good player since that 2014 season. He has, in fact, been outstanding value for a player drafted in the fifth round, 174th overall. What he has not been is the impact player his 2014 season hinted he might become.
Let’s take a closer look at the 25-year-old Kennard as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
The Giants limited Kennard’s linebacking responsibilities in 2106, partially to protect him after two injury-riddled seasons and partially because they had better options in pass coverage. With Jonathas Casillas and Keenan Robinson handling coverage duties in nickel and dime sets Kennard was relegated to anticipated run downs as the SAM linebacker. Kennard played only 47.8 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and he played a great many of those with his hand in the ground as a pass-rushing defensive lineman. Kennard’s 79.1 Pro Football Focus grade vs. the run was 20th among 89 qualifying linebackers, along with a sack and nine hurries in slightly less than 200 pass-rushing snaps.
2017 Season Outlook
Kennard figures to be in a similar linebacking role as an early-down or short-yardage run stopper. It is a role he handles well. Again, though, he seems destined to be pigeon-holed as a one- or two-down linebacker. As for his 2016 role as a pass-rushing defensive lineman, you wonder if he will be asked to reprise that. The Giants have Romeo Okwara, Devin Taylor, Kerry Wynn and fifth-round pick Avery Moss as backup defensive ends and pass-rush options. They may not have to ask Kennard to pull double-duty, which would likely mean a further reduction in the snaps he plays.
Kennard is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He would, obviously, like to show the Giants he is deserving of a second contract. How many snaps he will get to showcase his talent, though, is the question.