Linebacker Devon Kennard may get more chances for sacks
Devon Kennard came tearing up the middle, lowered his shoulder, was ready to deliver a crushing blow to the quarterback and then . . . stopped.
That's what he's supposed to do when it is Eli Manning and his red "don't even think about coming near me" jersey in the pocket in a training camp practice, as it was Monday. The rest of it? That's what he's supposed to be doing this season.
As the Giants prepare to find a way to replace the sack total of Jason Pierre-Paul -- be he limited in game appearances, physical ability, or even the unlikely situation he is not on the field in 2015 -- they look to other positions besides end to ante up. One of those spots undoubtedly will be linebacker.
And one of those linebackers most likely will be Kennard.
Coming off a rookie year with 4 1/2 sacks, Kennard would seem to be in a position to double that production. Especially when you consider that he had four sacks in a two-game span and the Giants didn't really start using him as a pass-rushing, blitzing linebacker until the final third of the season.
"Later in the year, I got some opportunities and was able to take advantage of it," he said.
Steve Spagnuolo is another reason why Kennard could be the first Giants linebacker since they moved to a 4-3 in 1994 to reach double-digit sacks. Spagnuolo's defense is much more aggressive than the one Perry Fewell called the last few seasons, and if training camp is any indication of Spags' intentions with Kennard, he'll be crashing the pocket quite a bit.
"You see the pressure packages, so he comes in the packages," Tom Coughlin said of Kennard's strong camp and his time spent in the face of Manning.
"There are different blitzes, he likes coming after the quarterback and getting pressure on the quarterbacks," Kennard said. "He has different blitzes and different things we can do out of our coverages, so to that degree, it is a little more complex [than last year], but easy on us. It looks more complex."
Without Pierre-Paul in the lineup, the Giants do not have a player who ever reached double-digit sacks. Some unproven players will have to step up, and Coughlin said he'll welcome contributions from everywhere.
"I hope there's lots of guys who will add to it," he said of the sack total. "I hope that we develop more people that are effective as pass rushers, no matter where they come from -- secondary, linebacker, up front."
Only two Giants linebackers since 1994 -- the season after Lawrence Taylor retired -- have had more sacks than Kennard had last year. Jessie Armstead, with nine in 1999, is the only linebacker to lead the team in sacks during that span.
Could this be the year another linebacker is finally among the team's leaders in sacks?
"Possibly," Kennard said. "Obviously, nobody gets more opportunities to rush the passer than defensive ends, but there are definitely times when we are going to pressure all of our linebackers, so we'll see what kind of opportunities are presented to us once the year comes."
That's when Kennard won't have to stop on his approach to quarterbacks and will be able to follow through on blitzes and hits. He's looking forward to it.
"Oh, of course," he said. "Nothing better than a sack and a caused fumble."