The Arizona Cardinals introduced outside linebacker Devon Kennard to media over video chat on Monday.
The Awhatukee native signed with the Bird Gang quickly after being cut from the Lions. The outside linebacker had plenty to say about his role in the defense, playing for the hometown team and this unusual offseason.
Here are a few big takeaways from his sit-down:
He’s thought about coming home
The linebacker was a standout at Desert Vista, where he logged 210 tackles, 87 tackles for loss and 32 sacks in 28 games. After a decorated college career at USC, he played for the New York Giants for four years before spending the last two with Lions.
While he wasn’t sure where he would end up, he always discussed coming back to Arizona with his old high school friends.
“We’d always have conversations like how cool it would be if I played for the Cardinals one day and all those things, but it isn’t one of those things you think would actually happen. It’s a ‘What are the chances?’ type of deals.”
The linebacker still stays in touch with the Thunder. Kennard got married a few weeks ago and said Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds was in attendance and he still has family within the program.
“Going to Desert Vista, my brother was able to coach me my whole high school career and he still coaches the (defensive line) at Desert Vista now. It was a pivotal point and it helped progress my career so much being able to be coached by my brother, being able to play for that school. It launched my career going to USC and beyond.”
He’s kept track out of the Cards from afar
Kennard saw the Kliff Kingsbury era from the very beginning when the Cardinals and Lions tied in Week 1 of the 2019 season. He said going up against a new offense and athletic quarterback with minimal NFL tape presented a challenge.
Now he gets to see that challenge while on the sidelines week in and week out.
“I think it’s a young team with a lot of opportunity. I like what Coach Kingsbury is doing here and I like the direction of the program and what we can be able to accomplish this year.”
He found a role he likes
Kennard is coming off back-to-back seasons with seven sacks. The uptick in those quarterback pressure numbers came in a new role to fill with the Lions. Despite getting in the backfield consistently, Kennard feels he can drop into coverage to help out in the pass defense as well
“Playing in Detroit was the first time I got to rush more often…I still dropped a lot more than guys in my position. It was definitely the first time I got to rush more regularly. That was something I was grateful for being there and I want to progress coming here.”
He’s Excited to Play Opposite Chandler Jones
Kennard fills a role that will be opposite Chandler Jones, who is coming off a 19-sack season. He has kept track of what Jones has accomplished and even gave him his endorsement as NFL Defensive Player of the Year when Kennard appeared on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football”. Kennard said he’s met Jones a few times and is excited to feed off his new teammates energy.
“I can only imagine what he’s like in the locker room and the position room, so I’m excited to be around the type of caliber player he is. I’m going to be picking his brain and hopefully cause some problems on the other side of him.”
He’s Making Due during this “New Normal”
This is a strange offseason for everyone as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s no different for Kennard, who navigated a unique, albeit brief, free agency and now has to get creative when working out during an age of social distancing.
“You have to adjust. Luckily, I have an at-home gym where I can get some work done. I have trainers that I like to work with and I have my brother training me so I’ll get to work with him isolated, just us two in private settings, so just make due with what we can.”
Kennard hopes he only has to make due for a few weeks before the Cardinals can flock to the team facility and prepare for the 2020 season.