Since making what some people called the greatest catch in NFL history, Giants rookie Odell Beckham Jr. has become a household name among football fans. But he isn't the only first-year player who has made a major impact on the Giants this season.
Beckham may be a lock to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, but the Giants have gotten huge contributions from their entire rookie class, including running back Andre Williams and guard Weston Richburg. And not to be overlooked is linebacker Devon Kennard, who has come on strong in the second half of the season and looks like a player who could be a building block for the future.
"I'm trying to progress every week,'' Kennard said Friday. "I'm trying to get better at everything -- all the little details. I [feel] nowhere near as polished as I want to be and as good as I want to be, and I want to continue to get better these next two games and have a really good offseason and go on.''
Kennard, a fifth-round pick out of USC, has appeared in 11 games and started five, recording 39 tackles (31 solo) with 41/2 sacks and two forced fumbles. He was named NFC defensive player of the week after recording two sacks and forcing a fumble in the win over Tennessee Dec. 7.
According to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Kennard's most impressive trait is that he doesn't act like a rookie.
"For a rookie, he's very mature,'' Fewell said. "He's very serious about his work and his business. He has a very professional attitude every single day in the classroom and on the field about his work and how he can improve as a rookie."
Fewell said Kennard is able to listen to criticism and not take it personally but use it to help him work to improve.
Kennard said the most important thing he's learned in his first professional season is "how to be consistent.'' The biggest adjustment, he said, came in understanding that with no classes to attend and no finals to study for, he had more time to spend studying videotape. He said he spent time working with veterans to learn how to better break down tape.
At 6-3, 251 pounds, Kennard was moved around in college to different positions -- middle linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end -- and the Giants also have moved him around. Ultimately, Fewell said, he sees Kennard as a strong-side linebacker.
At least for now, it doesn't matter to Kennard. "Whatever the coaches need me to do, I'm more than willing to do,'' he said. "And I feel like I'm smart enough and versatile enough to learn different things.''
In other news, Beckham was voted rookie of the week after his 12-catch, 143-yard, three-touchdown performance Sunday against Washington . . . The Redskins' Santana Moss was fined $22,050 for his outburst at officials that got him ejected after an apparent touchdown by Robert Griffin III was overturned after video review . . . Running back Rashad Jennings (ankle) did not practice and was ruled out . . . Linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) practiced fully and is probable.