Outside Linebacker Devon Kennard
The Giants linebacker situation, while not as scary looking as it’s been in the past thanks to the team’s re-signing of Jon Beason, is another unit where the depth was in need of an upgrade moving forward.
As noted, Beason will anchor the middle for at least the next three years. The team also signed Jameel McClain to replace Keith Rivers on the strong side.
Over on the weak side however, are question marks. In 2011, the Giants had drafted Jacquian Williams in the sixth round with an eye on him becoming a full-time starter.
That hasn’t happened yet, partially due to injuries—Williams dealt with a PCL strain part of 2012 and at the start of 2013—and partially due to inconsistency in his play.
Spencer Paysinger, an undrafted free agent also acquired in 2011, has been solid, particularly against the run. Like Williams and backup middle linebacker Mark Herzlich for that matter, his contract will expire after this season, and it’s unlikely the Giants will keep both.
Enter Kennard (6’3”, 249 pounds), who was recruited as a defensive end before finding a home as an outside linebacker for the Trojans last season.
Per NFL Draft Scout’s Rob Rang, Kennard, whose father is former NFL offensive lineman Derek Kennard, has a good burst off the snap and is effective in coverage, with the ability to smoothly change direction.
However, Kennard has had some durability issues throughout his career and doesn’t seem to do any one particular thing exceptionally well.
Rang also notes that Kennard right now doesn’t have the strength to play defensive end at the NFL level or the fluidness to be an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
So where does he fit in besides special teams? His selection, combined with the signing of Jameel McClain suggests to me that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell could be contemplating revisiting some multiple front looks that will include some 3-4 packages.
That’s something that the Giants did experiment with last summer only to scrap it for the season. With a fresh set of talent and some progress made by both Kennard as well as the rest of the defensive personnel, it would not be surprising if we see Fewell re-open that experiment again this summer.