Welcome back to our 4 questions free agency series. Earlier in the week, Reisman sent me out to Minnesota to chat with Eagles and Patriots experts on the Lions’ newest running back LeGarrette Blount. While I was reluctant to get in between the two Super Bowl foes, this time I was super happy about my assignment.
If you’ve read my work since talking about the Lions and free agency, then you know I’ve been a big fan of Devon Kennard ever since the Lions played the Giants in Week 2. I just saw something in the guy. So you can imagine how excited I was when the Lions went out and signed him.
In my opinion, Kennard is going to be a Day 1 starter that can do all the things Tahir Whitehead could do, but better. However, that’s my thoughts and opinions. We need to get the thoughts and opinions on Kennard from someone who’s been watching Kennard for longer.
So I went to Reisman and demanded that he give me first-class airfare out to New York on the double. He instead flew me economy to New Jersey and rented me a Nissan Compact something or other. At Lucia Pizza in Queens, I met up with Patricia Traina of The Athletic New York to talk about Kennard. Here’s what she had to say.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Kennard’s time in New York?
TANYC: “Kennard is a hardworking, solid locker room citizen who is going to give you every last bit of effort he has in his body and who is also going to be a cooperative face in the locker room. He is the son of Derek Kennard, who won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys back in the 1990s so he has excellent pedigree and understands how to get the job done. He’s not a rah-rah type of guy but I think he can be a serviceable leader.”
POD: What are his strengths?
TANYC: “He’s solid against the run and when you line him up with his hand in the dirt, he can rush the passer. I don’t have the official stats, but I believe most of his sacks came from the defensive tackle spot. He plays hard, but that can be a weakness because in his first couple of seasons, he had trouble staying on the field given how hard he plays. So he really needs to continue learning how to play smart.”
POD: What are his weaknesses?
TANYC: “He’s not as good in coverage. He tends to drift back and sometimes lose sight of his man. While he has decent enough closing speed, I just never got the sense that he felt comfortable in coverage.”
POD: Can Kennard make a large impact in Detroit? Or is he better served as a role player?
TANYC: “I think he’s probably best as a role player given his weaknesses. The other issue with him is that early in his career, he was injury prone, so I think last year the Giants coaches found a way to get him through 16 games by reducing his snaps.”
So the knock on Kennard has been consistently his issues in coverage. That could present an issue in the linebacking corps for the Lions if this is an issue that can’t be fixed in Detroit. The good news is that he does that have that closing speed, and that closing speed is faster than the player he’s replacing. He’ll also benefit from having two other young guys in the linebacking corps with him and a defensive-minded coach who specializes in coaching up linebackers. Lastly, at 26, Kennard still has his best years ahead of him... at least we hope he does.
Thank you again to Patricia Traina for helping us out this week. If you’re looking for New York Giants stuff, I highly recommend you check out her work over at The Athletic New York.