The Giants, coming into the season, were finally sufficient numbers-wise at LB. MLB Jon Beason was coming back after a strong 2013. Jacquian Williams was healthy and ready to break out. Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger were resigned with the hope they would continue to improve.
Then the Ravens cut Jameel McClain, who had learned how to play LB in the NFL at the hip of the incomparable Ray Lewis. The Giants acted swiftly and signed him.
In the draft, the Giants were not expected to break tradition and select a LB in the early rounds. When the Giants turn to select in Round Five at pick #152, they chose San Diego State safety Nat Berhe. Lucky for them they had another selection in the round.
With pick No. 174, a compensatory selection awarded to them a few weeks before the draft, the Giants grabbed Kennard. If you read his NFL.com draft profile, you'll see that scouts didn't think much of him. They projected him to go in the 7th round or be signed as a UDFA.
The strengths, according to the report: "Well-proportioned, muscular build. Generally plays on his feet. Can drop into short zones. Good tackler. Has played outside linebacker, middle linebacker and defensive end. Smart and tough. Team captain with outstanding intangibles, including leadership traits and a professional approach."
We've seen all of this, and more.
The weaknesses: "Lacks ideal body length and has small hands. Average athletic ability. Dull get-off. Limited explosion and power. Needs to cultivate pass-rush moves. Does not provide enough resistance against the run. Still developing instincts. Non-explosive athlete with pedestrian agility, as evidenced by poor 30-inch vertical and 7.25-second three-cone marks."
We've seen hardly any of this, with the exception of his run defense needing improvement.
Kennard was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, the first Giant rookie to receive the honor since it was instituted in 1984. That's quite a feat, considering the Giants have had some impressive defensive players come through their doors over that time: Carl Banks, Gary Reasons, Mark Collins, Erik Howard, Pepper Johnson, Jesse Armstead, Michael Strahan, Jason Sehorn, Shaun Williams, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Kenny Phillips, Prince Amukamara and Jason Pierre-Paul.
"There have been some incredible linebackers to play for this organization so something like that, it was definitely special but I know that I have a long ways to go and a lot of things that I want to improve and continue to develop in my game," Kennard told reporters Wednesday when asked about the honor. "I’m just taking it one day at a time and am grateful for that accomplishment."
Kennard has been more noticeable the past few weeks due to injuries in the LB unit. He has been turned loose as a pass rusher, recording two sacks two weeks in a row.
"I like trying to make plays for my team, whether that’s blitzing, which has been lately, or whether that’s in coverage or whether that’s just stopping the run," he said. "I want to help my team win any way I can and do whatever the coaches are asking me to the best of my ability. That’s what I’m going out and trying to do every Sunday."
This week, Kennard will attempt to keep the train rolling when the Giants host Washington, who has surrendered 46 sacks, the second most in the NFL thus far this season.