Seth Wenig/Associated Press
It’s been a long time since Giants GM Jerry Reese has had a Day 3 draft pick, let alone a drafted linebacker, who’s opened some eyes the way that rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard has.
Thanks to the foot injury suffered by middle linebacker Jon Beason, Kennard has seen his training camp reps increase.
The Beason injury has pushed Jameel McClain from the strong side to the middle, thereby opening the gate for Kennard to get some valuable practice time on the outside.
“I think he is very smart and physical. I am excited about him,” McClain said of Kennard.
“I have seen a lot of good rookies, and he is definitely one of the most impressive young guys that I have seen maturity wise and professionalism. I gave him a lot of compliments in that one sentence. I usually don’t do that much.”
McClain said that Kennard’s ability to catch onto the teachings in the classroom have been particularly impressive.
“You know this isn’t college. We have more than five or six plays going in. There are about 40 or some odd plays or more. For him to be able to lock in and focus in and play the game at a fast enough speed, you have to be impressed with it, regardless of whether he was linebacker, defensive lineman or cornerback.”
Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann has also been impressed with the rookie out of USC and believes that if it came down to it, Kennard could handle the responsibilities that come with lining up at middle linebacker now.
“Pittsburgh, I think, started Jack Lambert right? He turned out pretty good,” Herrmann said. “So if (Kennard) can handle it, and get everyone lined up and understand the nuances and where he belongs, he’s a pretty thick kid, he can hit people, so that’s good.”
Kennard has not only shown that he has a nose for the football, but also made some eye-opening plays, his biggest one thus far coming on a special teams drill where he popped into cornerback Bennett Jackson.
That hit, which you can see in this video, came at the start of the Giants’ practice on Saturday and seemed to set the tone for the defense, energizing it.
Herrmann said he’s very excited to see what Kennard can do in the preseason games, which for the Giants begin on Sunday against the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game.
“We’ll find out a lot about him, but he played at USC, which is pretty good football, so he’ll probably have a pretty good idea (about what to do).”
Patricia Traina is the senior editor for Inside Football. All stats from NFL.com unless otherwise noted. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow me on Twitter, @Patricia_Traina.