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New York Giants Rookie Linebacker Devon Kennard Opening Eyes in First Camp

July 26th, 2014 at 11:00 AM
By Dan Benton

It's been quite some time since the New York Giants drafted themselves a true impact linebacker, but General Manager Jerry Reese may have found a steal in rookie Devon Kennard, who was taken in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft back in May.

Not only is Kennard built for the NFL right out of college, but he's an intelligent young man who is not afraid to hit. He's also a quick study, and has impressed not only reporters, fans and positional coaches, but he's really opened the eyes of his teammates as well, including veteran linebacker Jameel McClain.

"I think Kennard is very smart. I think he is very smart and physical. I am excited about him. I have seen a lot of good rookies, and he is definitely one of the most impressive young guys that I have seen maturity wise and professionalism," McClain said on Friday. "I gave him a lot of compliments in that one sentence. I usually don’t do that much."

Kennard is not immune to hearing and reading about the hype, but has managed to keep a level head, stay humble and understand that there's still a long way to go before he makes a true impact as an NFL linebacker.

“I think they’re definitely happy with how fast I pick things up, but it’s a long ways,” Kennard told the New York Post. “I still have a lot of things to correct and I’m taking steps every day to improve what I need to do and playing at the level they expect of me and I expect of myself.

“As a linebacker, you have to understand the defense as a whole. That’s what I’m starting to do. I’m starting to understand how the pieces fit together to where it’s easy to kind of go back and forth like this, one day to another. It’s just picking it up and understanding what the coaches want.”

When the shoulder pads were finally put on on Friday, Kennard displayed some of what he learned to the misfortune of fellow rookie, Bennett Jackson, who found himself nearly decleated by the impressive young linebacker. It was the first big hit of camp, which saw Bennett literally lifted off his feet, followed by several other defensive players being lifted off of their feet in an adrenaline-rushed celebration of Kennard's destruction of Jackson.

While it may be entirely too early to call Kennard the "future" for the Giants, with each passing practice it gets safer and safer to say he's bringing a lot more than just hype to the football field.

Also…

Seeing your team play in the SuperBowl is priceless. Watching the SuperBowl live in the stands for $1 per week is beyond priceless. Find out how at TicketScore.com, the future of Championship Tickets. Tags: Bennett Jackson, Devon Kennard, Football, Jameel McClain, Jerry Reese, New York, New York Giants, NFL

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33 Responses to “New York Giants Rookie Linebacker Devon Kennard Opening Eyes in First Camp”

  1.  kujo says:

    Well, for starters, he is a hitter with some dog in him, something most of our LBs of late have been lacking. Add to it that he’s big (6’3?!?!!), athletic, smart and a hardworker who is making plays that have the veterans and coaches excited, and you’ve got every thing you need for the quintessential G101 Training Camp HoF induction.

    •  rlhjr says:

      It’s not out of the question that this kid could be the real deal. I would love to see him play in person. One thing is for sure, NONE of the young Giant backers of recent vintage have displayed the tenacity and willingness to behead people.

      My apologies to those tender of heart, but that is always the prerequisite for playing any linebacker position. That this kid has it represents a light year difference between him and any other Giant draft pick in more than ten years.

      Trust me, you know IT when you see IT. My only caveat is Reese will undoubtedly use any success on Kennard’s part to justify his late round selections of such critical positions like offensive linemen and linebackers.

      Still that will not make me thumb my nose at a kid who MAY be what this team has lacked for over two decades. Because the deal is another youngster at the position is needed to complement Kennard IF indeed Kennard turns out to be a player.
      I’ll have to reserve judgment until after the Canton game.

      And Kuj, I agree this has all the earmarks of yet another late July HOF inductee. However, I have to point out that “smart and a hard worker” are not words usually associated with G101 HOF’ers. Maybe there is some combine and game video of him somewhere.

  2.  Krow says:

    Hamstring injury in …. 5 … 4 … 3 …

  3.  Dirt says:

    That Joseph story that Dan shared in the last thread still shocks me.

    Whilst everyone is piling on, how does our strength and conditioning staff not know a player has a torn labrum? He didn’t exhibit any symptoms? No range of motion issues? Less weight being able to be lifted? Nothing? C’mon man.

    •  rlhjr says:

      Your point is well taken Dirt. So will Joseph be part of yet another lawsuit in 15 years claiming he was allowed to play with that shoulder? He could claim that Giants doctors ignored his injury because the team needed him on the field.

      Cant wait to hear what Coughlin and Reese have to say about this one.

  4.  kujo says:

    I absolutely think of backfield should be enormously improved, and think that Billy’s article mentioned the biggest improvement of all–the offensive line. I see no reason that this offensive line shouldn’t be greatly improved, given the addition of Schwartz, the seeming return of even the DECENT Will Beatty, the continued growth of Pugh, and assuming at least one of Mosley, Walton and Richburg gives us something better than their 2013 counterpart. Considering how terrible they were last year, I think it’s fair to say that there are no less than 2 games that were lost simply because of the offensive ineptitude brought on by our OL’s inability to give Eli any time to do anything.

    And that’s not to mention the net positive of the additions/subtractions made in personnel at RB.

    But even if this OL and RB turn out to be nothing more than average, I see great things coming for this offense, particularly as they get more comfortable with the scheme in the second half of season.

    •  rlhjr says:

      Given the state of the O-line for the last three seasons, there are not many chances that they could be any worse this season. That’s not saying these new guys are going to become the five blocks of granite. That’s just a testimony as to just how putrid the last edition was.

      •  kujo says:

        Yup. Still, I really do think these young guys are going to be good. Think about it–if Beatty returns to form, Pugh continues to grow, and Schwartz stays Schwartz, that’s 3/5ths of a GREAT OL, easily the best we’ve had in 5-6, and totally reasonable to hope for. And if 2014 Mosley is slightly better than 2013 Snee (again, TOTALLY reasonable) and Walton or Richburg presents an improvement over Baas and Boothe (pretty easy to accomplish), this group can’t help but be really really good, and really really young!

        •  fanfor55years says:

          Richburg is going to be more than “improvement”. He’s going to be a big part of things by 2015.

          Let’s not get too high on Beatty yet. I was told JPP handled him pretty easily over the past few days.

          But I think this has a chance to be a very good offensive line for a long time as long as they have a solution (Beatty or otherwise) at LT.

          •  kujo says:

            I’m being guarded in my optimism because if I gave in to the enthusiasm I felt when we finally drafted a top-tier center (in the 2nd round, no less), I’d have sticky keys and a blotched up screen. I think Richburg is going to be superb, and I’d love it if Walton gave us 1 year of solid play that allowed Richburg to really dig in and master all of the calls on this offense this year, so he’s ready in 2015.

            As for Beatty, I continue to think that you are overly skeptical, dare I say *pessimistic*, about him. I’ve never seen a player lose it, that totally, that quickly. I don’t have an explanation for it, and neither does anyone else. I’m willing to call a mulligan, provided he at least returns to a decent level of play. Obviously, if he sucks the big one this season, we’ll have to add LT to the top priorities list for next offseason. But I just have a feeling that he’s going to get back to his normal pretty-good-but-not-great self.

  5.  kujo says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and disagree with GOAT and FF55 on the fullback issue, insofar as I think they keep 4 RBs (the 3 obvious guys, plus Hillis) and one of Conner and Hynoski. I see the points being made about what Hillis gives us, but I continue to think that this theory is predicated on the myth of Michael Cox being good, which I just don’t see at all. I think he’s just another Da’Rel Scot, and given the choice between keeping that 5th RB, or having a fulltime manimal at FB, and a swing guy like Hillis who gives us that sort of FB/RB/TE hybrid that Pascoe was, I just think the latter makes the most sense.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      You may be right. I’m not saying it will go that way, just that after disagreeing with GOAT about this I now see that it’s a possibility.

      You are wrong about Cox. He has the potential to be WAY better than Scott ever dreamed of being. Remember, I’m the guy who insisted Scott was worthless when everyone else was insisting he had great potential. Cox has speed, size and lateral quicks. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a good running back but he DOES have the tools. Scott was just a novelty act and never had any chance of succeeding.

      •  kujo says:

        First off, I don’t think anyone was every “insisting” that Scott had “great potential.” Aside from that one big fake-punt TD in the preseason, the dude was a dud from the moment he stepped on the field. So let’s not pretend you were that far out in front of that matter.

        Secondly, I just don’t see it with Cox. I see him as just another subpar running back who can run north and south but doesn’t have that quick-twitch speed and elusiveness to really be a productive NFL player. I think he’s the typical 4th/5th RB you see on every NFL roster at this time of year–a guy who is deservedly on the bubble because he isn’t really much of a threat to be a starter.

        •  fanfor55years says:

          On this team Cox will not be important because with Jennings, Williams and Wilson we have three really good NFL backs. So really, I don’t care if Cox is on the team or not. But they might want to keep him for some reason.

          If I had to bet I’d say the top three plus Hillis plus Conner, which is probably what you’d say too. All I was saying was that my adamant insistence that GOAT was wrong about Hillis being used as a fullback/halfback may have been premature.

          As for that bum Scott, there were plenty of folks saying he’d be good and only I made it clear that I thought he was useless. Doesn’t matter much, especially because I think it was one of the easiest calls of all time (along with Barden, another outright bum whom many were fooled by for some bizarre reason). More a discredit to others than a credit to me.

          •  kujo says:

            Come on, dude. No one way excited by Scott. In fact, I seem to recall you talking about him in a similar way to Cox.

            But whatever.

            •  fanfor55years says:

              Nope. I said from day 1 he had no lateral movement and was therefore a surefire bust. And there were numerous posters who insisted he would be good given a chance.

              Doesn’t matter, but I assure you that’s accurate.

  6.  fanfor55years says:

    It’s sometimes hard to figure things in football. The players are really very dependent upon getting a chance from the coaches, being in a scheme that allows them to be at their best, the players around them and how they play, etc. Kennard may prove to be a textbook example. He went to a “football factory” with a history of turning out excellent linebackers, but wound up with three different sets of coaches, a team that was playing for nothing two years (thanks to sanctions), was asked to play four different positions in three different schemes, and was despite his obvious intelligence probably unable to ever get “comfortable” and play without thinking. Add that linebackers have been devalued a bit in the NFL of late, and you wind up with what just might prove to be a real talent lasting until the fifth round of the draft.

    I’ve been saying for years that the same issues explain most of what has happened with Eli Manning. There have been a lot of years when the people around him, the schemes, the game plans, etc. have simply not allowed him to do well. I genuinely think that if Joe Montana or Bart Starr had been the Giants’ quarterback over the past two seasons they’d have looked awful. I genuinely think that had the coaching staff not spit the bit in 2008 and come up with some dreadful game plans (most obviously against the Eagles in the January game in the Meadowlands) there’s a good chance Eli would have three rings and all debate about him would have ended. Don’t get me wrong. This works the other way too. When Eli was most successful was when he had solid people on offense, a decent running game, decent protection, receivers who could make plays, and a defense that didn’t give away field position easily. And yes, good coaching, though even then I think it was erratic and the personnel on offense was not always used most effectively.

    Jerrel Jernigan may prove another example. He wound up in the doghouse because of a few dropped balls and even though he looked very good in some preseason games he never really got much of a chance (of course, being behind Victor Cruz on the depth chart explains a lot too). When he finally got some playing time it looked like he may have real talent, which will be determined this season if things go his way.

    How about Charles James? The kid can definitely play. He may even be special despite his lack of size. But he has an uphill battle to even make this roster. If he catches a break he could become a terrific NFL defensive back. If not, he could wind up in the CFL or selling insurance.

    It’s a hard road for these kids who come in unheralded, or who bear the brunt of ignorant criticism from those who don’t understand how dependent each player is on his teammates in order to perform well. So it’s really nice when a kid like Kennard comes in and almost immediately opens eyes as to his potential.

    This 2014 draft is starting to look like one that may pay a lot of dividends.

    •  kujo says:

      This could very well be Reese’s best offseason, when all is said and done. But that has to translate to postseason success, or else its all for naught.

      •  fanfor55years says:

        Can’t control injuries, etc., but I think it’s already safe to say that Reese had an incredibly good offseason. Who he signed, who he didn’t sign, who he drafted…all of it looks pretty brainy from where I’m sitting.

        •  fanfor55years says:

          But yes, all for naught if they don’t make the playoffs.

          They SHOULD win the division.

          If they get lucky on the health side they should make a run in the playoffs. They’re not San Francisco, but they should be able to compete with them, and they should be as good or better than any AFC team.

        •  kujo says:

          That humble pie he was fed by Mara seemed to take.

  7.  kujo says:

    I’d also add that FF55, like many Giants fans, has ALWAYS underrated Linval. While everyone was weeping tears of blood about how Canty was a “space eater” whose production came from allowing others to get production, Linval actually went out there and made plays WHILE engaging 2+ blockers. He got better every year, particularly as a run defender. Truth be told, although he never did much in the way of pass rushing, he certainly pushed the pocket backward, something the Giants have seemingly never placed a lot of emphasis on.

    Linval will be sorely missed, no matter what we get out of Hankins, Patterson, Bromley, Kuhn and Jenkins. He was a productive defensive tackle that we drafted and groomed before letting him walk.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      Umm, I’ve always said he was “very good but not great”. I don’t think that’s underrating him at all. I just didn’t think he was worth $5MM+ per annum when his production could be replaced. Reese agreed. We’ll see about the production but I’m very confident that we’ll replace it. When teams successfully run on this defense let me know. Until then I’ll sleep soundly even knowing Linval is gone.

      •  kujo says:

        Hey, I’m not saying we won’t replace his production. I’m saying that I think that Linval + Hankins + Bromley et. al > Jenkins + Hankins + Bromley et. al. I would’ve signed Linval for that contract he got with the Vikings in a heartbeat, same way I would’ve signed Cofield. I think Jenkins is overrated, and would’ve gladly swapped his cap space for a younger, better player in Linval.

        •  fanfor55years says:

          Okay, that might make sense BUT, if you’re confident that teams won’t run on you with what you have why spend that money? They grabbed Bromley and while this is a redshirt season for him he might be the DT who DOES get to the quarterback, something they weren’t going to get from Linval. It’s possible that from 2015 forward they will have Hankins (a great run-stopper who also has the quicks to reach the QB on occasion) paired with Bromley (who practically lives in the backfield) and have a great young combo at a very cheap price for a few years.

  8.  Dirt says:

    The 2013 New York Football Giants: The team with the most injuries (that we know about) in league history

  9.  kujo says:

    Here’s a prediction: we’ll keep 4 RBs (Hillis over Cox, obviously) and both FBs!

    If you’ve watched any Packers games, you know how important the FB is that offense. And it’s not just Kuhn–they always have 2-3 different FBs rotating in and out, sometimes bringing a couple onto the field at the same time. These guys block, run the ball and catch the ball.

    So the idea that we’re not going to have ANY true fullbacks on the roster is, in a word, uninformed.

    But think about it– can’t you see McAdoo going with that wishbone setup back there in the redzone, with Williams behind Eli, and Conner and Hyno to either side and John Jerry or Charles Brown as the 6th OL. Eli gets to decide which way Williams runs, can audible into a playaction to one of the TEs.

    Rosterbaiting aside, that is going to be the 2014 New York Giants offense.

    •  fanfor55years says:

      Ehh, no way they have room for two fullbacks. That would mean sacrificing a defensive back or an offensive lineman and they can’t afford it.

      But your basic point is good. Fact is, Hillis CAN play that second fullback role in that kind of a formation. So GOAT can claim he was right that Hillis would be used as a fullback (at least some of the time) and you can say you were right about Cox.

      I’m down for Jennings, Wilson, Williams, Hillis and Conner. But I can definitely see Hynoski beating out Conner just based upon being a better receiver.

    •  wduda83 says:

      Don’t see it. I think it’s Hillis (and Hynoski and the Terminator are gone). Green Bay uses the fullback a lot, but they aren’t really the battering ram a lot of people think. Kuhn is an excellent receiver (Hillis is no slouch), but a good runner as well. When GB was in 3rd and short or goal to go scenarios, Kuhn was a focal point. Hillis can fill that role.
      Something that we now have that GB didn’t is Andre Williams. He should be our battering ram in short yardage making the need for multiple fullbacks mute.

  10.  rlhjr says:

    Kennard has a little Strahan in him. By that I mean he’s determined.
    His ability to close is not bad, but NOT elite.
    His level of effort is high and easily seen.

    Although he’s not a DE he may become a good blitzer/situational pass rusher. And this kid is physically strong. He may develop into a very nasty physical hitter.
    That might be what McClain sees in him.

    Veteran players don’t get overly excited by raw rooks this time of year.
    But the players know if a kid is any good way before the coaches do.
    Lets see what the buzz is after the game and a few more practice sessions.

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