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2018 Detroit Lions roster review: Can Devon Kennard take the next step?

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Devon Kennard had a promising first year in Detroit, but there was room for improvement.

NFL: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As we head towards training camp, it’s time to revisit some of the Detroit Lions’ players from the 2018 season and see what their future with the team holds. Devon Kennard was a big addition in 2018, and his play was somewhat promising. But considering all of the defensive roster changes the team has made, Kennard’s long-term future with the team may be in doubt.

Here’s a closer look at Lions Jack linebacker Devon Kennard. If you need a refresher on what to think when you hear us use the term “Jack linebacker,” consider browsing these excellent articles at some of our sister sites:

When you’re all set, come back here and we can get back to DK.

Devon Kennard

Expectations before 2018

Kennard was one of the biggest signings of the Lions’ 2018 offseason. Detroit handed him a three-year, $17.25 million contract, signaling that he was an important piece to Matt Patricia’s new defense. However, with only 9.5 career sacks to his name, Lions fans were left wondering what exactly the team saw in Kennard.

Expectations were guarded, but there was some hope that Detroit had found a diamond in the rough in Kennard.

Actual role in 2018

2018 stats: 15 games (15 starts), 46 tackles (9 TFLs), 7.0 sacks, 1 fumble recovery
PFF grade: 62.2 (70th among edge defenders)

Kennard’s 2018 season got off to a hot start. In his first five games, he tallied 5.0 sacks and 17 tackles, making Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia look like the smartest two men in Detroit. However, his production waned, and his pass-rushing productivity was actually quite poor.

That being said, Kennard was a valuable piece the Lions were missing on defense. He sets the edge well (71.1 run defense grade), and is actually quite efficient when he drops into coverage—he had the ninth-highest PFF grade in coverage among all edge defenders.

He isn’t the sack-machine that many fans were hoping for, but I’m not sure that’s what the Lions had in mind for Kennard anyways. His do-it-all arsenal is much more valuable to the Lions’ head coach than a one-trick pony.

Outlook for 2019

Contract status: Signed through the 2020 season

Kennard should benefit from another year under Patricia’s scheme and an improved set of players around him. The pressure is also on Kennard, as the Lions may have drafted his eventual replacement in fourth-round pick Austin Bryant.

There’s no question that Kennard needs to improve most as a pass rusher, but the veteran says he’s looking to do whatever he can to make the team better.

“My focus is team oriented,” he said per DetroitLions.com. “I want to help the team win and whatever role they put me in, whatever they are asking me to do, I want to excel to the best of my ability. That’s what I’m focused on.”

“Obviously, if that means more sacks, I’m definitely welcome to that.”

Kennard’s play isn’t as flashy as Jarrad Davis’, and his statline likely won’t ever be as explosive as other edge defenders, but his reliable play is just the kind of thing Patricia is looking for from his Jack linebacker, and that’s likely to continue this upcoming season.