Rookie linebacker Kennard has Giants 1st in award
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard impressed the New York Giants in training camp with his speed, athleticism and ability to hit.
The only things that held back the fifth-round draft pick from Southern California was that instinctiveness that comes from playing and a hamstring injury that happened in the season opener.
It took almost a month for Kennard to get over the injury. The playing smarts took a little longer, and Kennard now is showing what he can do now that he understands the game.
Earlier this week, Kennard became the Giants' first rookie defensive player to win the NFC player of the week award after posting two sacks for the second straight week and forcing a fumble in the Giants' 36-7 win over Tennessee.
''I came in with the mindset that I wanted to help my team,'' Kennard said Thursday after the Giants (4-9) finished practice for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins (3-10) at Metlife Stadium. ''I wanted to show the coaches and teammates that I could help them win games the best way I can, and any way I can.''
With recent injuries to linebackers Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich, Kennard's playing time has increased and he has been outstanding, getting to opposing quarterbacks on the blitz.
''We knew he was a big, strong, powerful man,'' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Thursday. ''I think he is displaying that in his play.''
Fewell said Kennard also is a smarter player. He always had a good grasp of what was going on in the meeting rooms, but there was a slight hesitation on the field.
''A lot of times when they are out there on the field and it happens fast, as a ball coach, you can see them thinking,'' Fewell said. ''He is starting to use his athleticism and executing those moves that we have talked about in the classroom. That is why I say he has become a smarter player.''
Fewell said the Giants had wanted to use Kennard more in blitzing situations but the opportunities didn't always present themselves.
The chances have been there the past two weeks, and a sack and forced fumble by Kennard led to a touchdown return by defensive tackle Markus Kuhn.
Fellow linebacker Jameel McClain said Kennard is sponge-like in the meeting room. The 23-year-old is not overly talkative but tends to ask the right questions when he speaks, McClain said.
''Kennard is a phenomenal kid,'' McClain said. ''Kennard is focusing on his game and he focuses on details. For him to be so young and be such a professional, it is amazing.''
NOTES: Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn apologized for his run-in with punter Steve Weatherford during Sunday's game. The coach grabbed Weatherford after the player walked past him following a bad punt. ''It was an unfortunate incident that transpired obviously, that we both wish we could have back,'' Quinn said. ''We are fiery, we're competitive, and it escalated way too far.'' ... Odell Beckham Jr.'s jersey from his one-handed TD catch is in the Hall of Fame. ''What an honor for it to be in there,'' Beckham said. ''Definitely something to be proud of, but it is just the beginning for me.'' ... QB Eli Manning (back) was again ''limited'' at practice Thursday, but coach Tom Coughlin said he did everything he needed to do. ...McClain (knee) returned to practice after sitting out Wednesday.