After a relatively quiet day on Monday, the Detroit Lions started making some serious moves on Tuesday. Chief among those transactions were the agreements to sign two linebacker: Giants Devon Kennard and Bears Christian Jones.
Though Kennard was a player some linked to the Lions—credit to our own Mike Payton there—Jones was a signing that came a little bit out of nowhere. So in order to get to know the two a little better, let’s take a look at the instant analysis of the two from across the web.
With Kennard, there was immediately some confusion as to what role he would play, as the Giants used him in several different ways.
Just running back some Giants film quickly, looks like Kennard was primarily used as an edge rusher, as opposed an off-ball OLB.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) March 13, 2018
Kennard played a lot of strong-side linebacker for the Giants. Also can offer something as an edge rusher. Probably (not definitely) closes the door on Whitehead, unless he winds up having to settle for a cheap deal.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) March 13, 2018
And then there’s this, regarding the Giants’ use of Kennard in the 2016 season:
Devon Kennard was utilized much more as a pass rusher last season pic.twitter.com/fY81ZjYL1X— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 5, 2017
That versatility left many Lions fans feeling pretty good about the signing:
With all of this attention spent toward improving the linebacking core for two straight years, I better see some good play from them next year. I do like what Quinn is doing. You've got your hybrid/pass-rushing LB in Kennard, your QB on defense in Davis and now a do-everything LB— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) March 13, 2018
Devon Kennard replaces Tahir Whitehead in Lions defense. Better pass rusher, tackler, but just as bad on coverage.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 13, 2018
And Giants fans didn’t seem to thrilled about losing him:
He was in an iffy system.. I wanted to see him with the new 3-4 regime.. But with Patricia hell do well— JoeVO (@JoeAntonio10) March 13, 2018
YOOOO WTF ARE MY GIANTS DOING YO ♂️— Noel Parmar (@parm_noel) March 13, 2018
Kennard can cover a little. But he’s a pass rushing specialist. He’s gonna flourish in Detroit— ✖️isaiah!✖️| 4️⃣5️⃣ (@FourWitTheFive) March 13, 2018
Here’s our friends at Big Blue View reacting to the signing:
Kennard excited Giants fans hungry for good linebackers with 4.5 sacks in 12 games (six starts) as a rookie, but really never again matched that production.
For the past couple of seasons, former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used Kennard frequently as a pass-rushing defensive lineman and relied on him less and less as a traditional linebacker. Kennard had four sacks in 2017.
Be sure to check out some of the comments, too.
It wasn’t all good review for this signing, however. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell gave the signing a C grade. “It’s possible Kennard could prove to be more than we saw in New York, but the Lions are paying a lot for the privilege of finding out,” Barnwell wrote.
The feelings on Christian Jones are a little more polarizing. Bears fans are generally a little bummed about losing Jones, who started 26 games in the past three years with them:
He played well when he started the last couple years at ILB, plus he's a really good special teamer. His first year in Chicago he played 4-3 OLB.— Windy City Gridiron (@WCGridiron) March 13, 2018
#Lions are getting a solid player in former Chicago Bears' linebacker Christian Jones. Versatile as he played outside and inside in the Bears 3-4 scheme. Team focused. Smart as he was sometimes called on to wear the sticker. Ascending.— Aldo Gandia (@AldoBarkeeper) March 13, 2018
Some Lions fans were on board, too:
I liked Christian Jones a lot coming out of FSU, had that ability to play any LB role, could rush, cover, thump a little. Never really found positional home in CHI. Read/react LB best playing SLB, experience in 3-4.— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) March 13, 2018
Christian Jones 6"3 245— HonoluluBlue4Life (@4Lawson4) March 13, 2018
Devon Kennard 6"3 260
Patriot sized LBs. Bigger than what we are used to seeing in Detroit. Times are changing in the D.
But not everyone was on board with the signing. He had terrible grades according to Pro Football Focus, and Brett Whitefield explained why:
They had a multidtude of injuries before he got a chance. Hes bad.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) March 13, 2018
Jones’ ability to cover is the source of much debate. That’s of the utmost importance, because it has been a weakness among Lions linebackers for many years now. The Athletic’s Chris Burke calls him a “coverage linebacker,” while his PFF grades suggest otherwise. Jones ranked just one spot higher than Tahir Whitehead in 2017 when it came to coverage grades.
If there’s one thing pretty much everyone can agree on, it’s that this spells the end for Whitehead. Zac Snyder of Detroit Jock City outlines Detroit’s situation nicely here: