Detroit Lions: Devon Kennard’s role on defense in 2019

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Devon Kennard #42 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Devon Kennard #42 of the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Edge defender Devon Kennard’s first season with the Detroit Lions was a solid if unspectacular debut. With his first year playing for head coach Matt Patricia under his belt, SideLion Report examines what to expect from him in 2019.

As a member of the New York Giants, Devon Kennard’s first four years in the NFL was a rather nondescript period, even for a fifth round draft pick. After a solid first season with the Detroit Lions, expectations can and should be higher for the veteran defender.

Kennard had easily his best season in the NFL in 2018, almost equaling his previous career total in sacks with 7.0 takedowns. As the Lions’ highest profile free agent signing of the 2018 offseason, Detroit had plans of using him in a variety of roles as the defense moved to a more complex, multiple scheme under head coach Matt Patricia.

It’s a guise to which Kennard would seem to adhere well. At 6-foot-4 and over 250 pounds, he was basically the first model in a shift for the Lions towards bigger, more versatile linebackers and edge defenders. Second round draft pick Jahlani Tavai carries a similar frame, as does co-linebacker Christian Jones.

Kennard though, will likely be counted on the most out of those three in 2019. With the makings of a powerful and disruptive defensive line – a far cry from this time a year ago – the Lions should be able to line him up all over the defense in hopes of unlocking his true potential, and justifying the hefty contract they gave him in 2018.

Last year, Kennard may have been asked to do too much, particularly when the Lions were struggling to adjust to a new, complex defensive program early in the year. With Tavai now in tow, middle linebacker Jarrad Davis developing and free agent signee Trey Flowers brought in to play on the edge, Kennard should be able to lean on his strong run defense, while chipping in in the pass rush department.

In terms of finances, Kennard is in year two of the three-year pact he signed with the Lions prior to the 2018 season. With cap hits of nearly $6 million in this year and just over $7 million in 2020, he is by no means a contractual albatross at this point.

However, the Lions do have some critical financial decisions coming up concerning some of their most important players, both as this offseason continues and a year from now. Should Kennard be deemed expendable next season, he will cost the Lions less than $2 million in dead cap money.

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Regardless, Kennard will continue to play an important role along the Lions’ front seven this season. Additionally, his leadership will be valued as the Lions acclimate a handful of new acquisitions and rookies on the defensive side of the ball.

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