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LB Devon Kennard looking forward to return


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Game day has been torture for Devon Kennard the last two weeks.

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The Giants' second-year strongside linebacker strained a hamstring on Oct. 4 in Buffalo and was inactive for the team's victory over San Francisco and loss in Philadelphia. But Kennard has practiced all week and is listed as probable for the Giants' Sunday showdown with the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium.

"It was brutal," Kennard said of watching games he wanted to play in. "It feels really weird sitting at home when the guys I've been sweating with all offseason, all preseason, and all camp are working their butts off and playing and I'm watching from home. It gave me a little hunger, and I'm excited to get out there with my teammates. My deal is always earn my teammates' and my coaches' respect. Even though it was only two weeks, I want to come back and do that again and just earn their respect by the energy I bring when I'm on the field and how hard I play for my brothers next to me.

"I just want to be out there with my teammates. I can't wait to strap it up again and go to war with my guys."

Kennard said he will be at full strength on Sunday.

"I feel good, I'm ready to go," he said. "It's up to the coaches in what packages and what they have me doing, but I'm feeling good. This week has gone well, so going to go out there and let it rip."

Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday

Kennard will likely be welcomed back along with defensive end Robert Ayers, who missed the previous four games with a hamstring injury. That should boost a front seven that has just seven sacks in six games, and had none in an opening-night loss to the Cowboys in Dallas.

"Hopefully, that part of the game will be better," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Obviously, Dallas has an outstanding offensive line. We would have some people that have demonstrated the ability to at least make the quarterback uncomfortable."

Kennard doesn't have a sack this season, but he had 4.5 as a rookie in 2014, when he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Dec. 7 at Tennessee, where he had six tackles, 2.0 sacks, two tackles for losses and a forced fumble.

The Giants' front wants to constantly hound quarterback Matt Cassel, who will start for the first time in a Cowboys uniform in place on the injured Tony Romo.

"I think that's a point of emphasis just for our own pride," Kennard said. "We didn't get enough pressure on the quarterback the last time we played them, and we want to change that this time around. So that's definitely something we want to improve and it starts with our front four. They're going to get opportunities, and I think they're up to the task.
"I've always been taught it takes four to get a sack - or at least four, we can be blessed with more than that. We've got to work together. On the back end, get some good coverage and allow those guys to go hunt."

When the teams met on Sept. 13 in Dallas, the Cowboys drove 72 yards in just six plays and 1:27 and scored the game-winning touchdown when Romo threw an 11-yard pass to Jason Witten with just seven seconds left. That late sequence still bothers the defensive players.

"It's definitely something you think about, but you've got to move on," Kennard said. "It's in the back of our minds, just the idea of we have to finish this game. We want to win this game for the opportunity just to get up in this division, and it's a divisional opponent. We were in the game last time around and we want to just make sure we play four quarters and do our thing. We have to really go out and play four full quarters and we can't let up."

After two weeks of sitting and watching, Kennard is ready to help his teammates do just that.

*Four Giants players have been listed as questionable on the Giants' injury report: wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), linebackers Uani 'Unga (neck) and Jonathan Casillas (neck), and cornerbacks Trumaine McBride (groin) and Brandon McGee (back).

Asked if he expects Beckham to play Sunday, coach Tom Coughlin said, "I'm counting on that, yes."

If 'Unga can't play, Mark Herzlich would likely split time with Jon Beason at middle linebacker. Herzlich started the previous two weeks for Kennard. Jasper Brinkley would also be a candidate for playing time.

*In addition to Ayers and Kennard, players listed as probable for Sunday are defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins (calf), wide receiver Rueben Randle (hamstring), linebacker Jon Beason (knee), cornerback Trevin Wade (concussion) and Kennard.

*Cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf) are out.

*Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant, who has not played since breaking his foot on opening night against the Giants, is doubtful. Bryant did not practice all week.

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