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Rookie LB Devon Kennard turning heads with stellar play

Posted Dec 8, 2014

Rookie Linebacker Devon Kennard has back-to-back games with two sacks


Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard first grabbed everyone’s attention in training camp with his big hits and physical nature.

Now that he has his NFL legs under him, the USC product is doing so again down the stretch in his inaugural season.   

Kennard, a fifth-round draft choice, now has back-to-back games with two sacks, including the Giants’ 36-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in which the defense had eight as a unit.

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“He is maintaining his own at the line of scrimmage,” coach Tom Coughlin said Monday on a conference call with Giants reporters. “He plays with power. He can shock you on contact, which we all observed. He is a guy that is not prone to missed assignments or anything of that nature. [He] loves to play. He is physical, so he has been the kind of things you are looking for.”

Throw in seven sacks from the week before against Jacksonville, and the Giants have 15 in the last two weeks after notching just 19 in the first 11 games of the season.

But what’s more intriguing than the numbers is where they’re coming from on the field.

Of the 15 in a two-week span, just seven have come from the defensive line. Six are from linebackers -- Jameel McClain had two in addition to Kennard’s four -- while the secondary has a pair, one each from Stevie Brown and Mike Harris.

“[When] you look on the defensive side of the ball, they proved that they do know how to blitz,” Giants Ring of Honor linebacker Carl Banks said Monday on WFAN. “They brought the kitchen sink and [defensive coordinator] Perry Fewell had everybody on the same page and all the players seemed to be very focused on playing assignment football. And you saw the end result of it.”

That result was the Giants holding the Titans to 207 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble on Kennard’s first sack that defensive tackle Markus Kuhn scooped up for a 26-yard touchdown return in the first quarter.

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“Obviously they played a line [on Sunday] that had some injuries, but that’s not their fault,” Banks said, referencing the Titans’ offense, which played without its two starting tackles. “The Giants have injuries as well on their defensive line. Again, I think it speaks to the effort in the preparation that they put into this in just trying to be better. I’m not going to overstate the fact that they are playing well. They’ve got a lot of sacks. If you want to call them ‘resume builders,’ you can say that. But they still accomplished something. They came out, they prepared, they executed their game plan, and that’s all you can ask, no matter who the opponent is. And sure, you’d like to have seen it earlier this year.”

In a season that can finish no better than 7-9, Kennard is another bright spot in a productive rookie class for the Giants, which also produced wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., guard Weston Richburg, and running back Andre Williams, who have all started for the team this year.

“It’s getting more and more comfortable for me,” Kennard said after Sunday’s game in Nashville. “Being a rookie, I’m just trying to get better every week and try to be a peak performer and that’s something I emphasize.”

Kennard added: “I have D-end history. I’ve played defensive end before in college and in high school. So rushing the passer is something I’ve always been able to do and have a knack for.”