[Ed. note: Promoted from the FanPosts. Good look at a potential Eagles target.]
After taking a look at one of Brandon Lee Gowton's latest post regarding draft prospects the Eagles have shown interest in, one name stood out. USC OLB Devon Kennard is an intriguing prospect that could be a late round target for the Eagles. They've clearly been watching him closely so I thought I would take a closer look!
Most Eagles' fans are clamoring for the team to address the outside linebacker position on day one or two of the draft, and I definitely understand why. But as mentioned above, USC's Devon Kennard could be a day three target for the Eagles and potential long term answer at the position. Once BLG's article listed Kennard as a player that has drawn a lot of interest from the team, I decided it was best to take a further look myself.
As BLG mentioned, Kennard was recruited by Chip Kelly out of high school, was the #1 ranked defensive end in the nation coming out of high school and had an outstanding game against Kelly's team at Oregon (13 tackles vs. Oregon in 2010). Those are three key area's that Kennard meets and have appeared to be important so far in Kelly and Howie Roseman's tenure together. The Eagles also reportedly met with Kennard at the East-West Shrine Game as well. But what does Kennard bring to the table at the next level? That is the question.
Although he didn't have the most impressive numbers at the combine, Kennard looked great on tape in 2013 at USC. It was the first full season that Kennard played outside linebacker and he definitely looked at home at that position. He finished the season with 60 total tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 10 QB hurries, 9 sacks, 4 passes defended and a fumble recovery. But he has been through a lot since joining USC in 2009, including a multitude of position changes.
His freshman year, in 2009, he started the season as back-up defensive end but was then switched over to strongside linebacker by midseason. In 2010, was moved to a third position, that being middle linebacker. He then moved back to defensive end in 2011. Sadly, Kennard tore a chest muscle and was forced to miss the entire 2012 season but came back strong in 2013.
As you can see, Kennard has collegiate experience at four different positions (DE, MLB, both OLB spots) and that is very intriguing. The Eagles always preach about having versatile players on defense so adding Kennard would make a ton of sense. He also fits the size bill that the team is looking for on defense at 6'3", 249 lbs. with 33 3/8" arms. Although his spider graph isn't the most impressive thing in the world and the player comparisons aren't too promising, it is shaped like the Lombardi Trophy (or I may just be crazy).
Now that Kennard's back story and measurables are out of the way, let's get down to business. I watched the only two games that were available of Kennard on Draft Breakdown which were 2013 games against Arizona and Oregon State. Sadly I'm not tech savvy enough to create GIFs of the specific plays I wanted to highlight from both of these games. But I did go ahead and screenshot them so I'll break them down that way. Here we go!
First, I will go over the plays that stood out to me against Arizona. This first play shows Kennard recognizing a screen pass and quickly reacting to it.
1) As you can see, Kennard is standing up outside of the left tackle and is ready to rush the quarterback at the snap.
2) Kennard recognizes the linemen let him rush freely and headed up field. He plants his feet to stop his blitz and drops back in coverage.
3) Kennard gets in front of RB Ka'deem Carey and cuts off the screen pass to the QB's left side.
In this next play, Kennard shows his ability to shed blockers and make plays against the run.
1) Kennard lines up outside of the left tackle again in a standing position.
2) Off the snap, Kennard goes head to head with the left tackle and keeps his head up to read the running back.
3) Kennard tosses the left tackle to the side (he's the guy on the floor) and wraps up RB Ka'Deem Carey for a small gain.
Here is another play that shows Kennard's ability to use his length and strength to disengage from blockers and make plays against the run.
1) Once again, he lines up outside of the left tackle in a standing position.
2) Kennard takes on the tight end on this play and notices the play is going inside to his left side. So he uses his length to push the tight end to the outside and keeps his left arm free to get his hand on the ball carrier.
3) Kennard disengages from the block and uses his long arms to wrap up the RB for another small gain.
In this final play from Kennard's tape against Arizona, he shows a blitz pre-snap then drops back in zone coverage but still uses his speed to get a hit on the quarterback and interrupts his throw.
1) Kennard starts about five yards off the line of scrimmage but creeps up to the line and shows blitz before the snap.
2) At the snap, Kennard drops back and sits in his zone for his coverage responsibilities.
3) Kennard recognizes no receiver is in his zone and that the quarterback is rolling out. He instantly leaves his zone and pursues the quarterback.
4) Kennard turns on the jets and becomes a blur on the screen. He finishes the play by knocking the QB down right as he throws and the pass falls incomplete.
As you can see, Kennard showed his ability to rush the passer and make plays against the run in the above plays against Arizona. He finished that game with 7 total tackles and a sack as well.
Up next is some plays that stood out from Kennard's tape against Oregon State. This first play shows how Kennard can make plays even when they're ran away from his side.
1) Kennard lines up outside the left tackle but not in his usual rushing stance, this time he lines up in more of a traditional linebacker stance with his hands by his knees and shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.
2) At the snap, the left tackle blocks inside and Kennard goes unblocked. He flys off the ball and recognizes the run going to the opposite side.
3) Kennard runs right along the line of scrimmage and brings down the running back for no gain.
Up next is a play that showcases Kennard's ability to blitz. He is sent on a stunt and loops around the defensive tackle and moves inside.
1) Kennard lines up in his usual spot outside of the left tackle's outside shoulder.
2) At the snap, Kennard takes a step back and loops around the defensive tackle and rushes inside.
3) Kennard beats the linemen inside and draws the flag for holding after he was put in a UFC worthy choke-hold.
Last but not least was my favorite play I've seen from Kennard from these two games. He gets double teamed by a tight end and left tackle but splits them with a beautiful spin move and gets the sack.
1) Once again, Kennard lines up in his usual spot outside of the left tackle but this time there is a tight end on that side as well.
2) At the snap, Kennard uses a speed rush to try and get outside the tackle but is sandwiched by both the tight end and the tackle.
3) But neither one of the blockers weren't ready for what came next. Kennard set them up with the speed rush up field and used a Dwight Freeny-esque spin move to the inside and got off both blockers.
4) The blockers were left in the dust after the spin move and the QB had no chance against Kennard, who took him down for the sack.
Kennard finished the game against Oregon State with 4 total tackles, 2 sacks and a pass defended. He showed just how versatile of a pass rusher he can be in this game as well as his abilities against the run.
After watching the tape, although it's a small sample size, it's easy to see why the Eagles have shown interest in Devon Kennard. Although he definitely needs some polish to his game and can afford to add some more pass rushing moves, he shows a lot of potential. He may not be an immediate answer at the OLB position but with a full year in the NFL practicing and learning at the outside linebacker position, I believe he could potentially fill that position down the road.
I can certainly think of other players I would want over Kennard on day three, especially in the fourth round. But if he's available in the fifth round, I would absolutely be on board with that pick. He's a bit of a project and doesn't have a ton of experience at the position, but Kennard could possibly be the long term answer for the Eagles at OLB.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed! Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @Anthony_DiBona, thanks again!