Ex-Detroit Lions sack leader Devon Kennard ‘excited’ to face former team

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Devon Kennard had a career day against the Arizona Cardinals last September, so it was only fitting that he signed with the team days after the Detroit Lions released him this offseason.

Kennard will play against the Lions for the first time Sunday, and he’s a key part of an Arizona defense that has allowed the second fewest points in the NFL through two weeks.

“He’s been tremendous,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said in a conference call with Detroit reporters Wednesday. “He was part of a huge goal line stop Week 1 on fourth-and-1 that really won the game for us. Great human being, great in the locker room. His work habits, professionalism, all the things you want as a leader in your team, and so we couldn’t be more pleased with what we’ve seen from Devon and I know he’ll be excited about this game on Sunday.”

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Kennard, who has one sack and three tackles on the season, led the Lions with 14 sacks in 2018-19, including three in a season-opening tie against the Cardinals last year.

He played nearly every snap at left outside linebacker when healthy, was a captain in both seasons and one of Lions coach Matt Patricia’s first free agent signings.

So why did the pass-rush needy Lions cut ties with him in March?

Patricia declined to go into details when asked about the move Thursday, but the Lions signed Jamie Collins, who played for Patricia with the New England Patriots, to take Kennard’s place in what was essentially a wash, salary cap-wise.

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“Obviously just with Kennard, I have a very special relationship with him, and I’m going to talk to him and really enjoy him,” Patricia said. “I enjoyed coaching him, I enjoy him as a person, love his family. So really got nothing but great things to say about him and especially what he did when he got here and how much he helped this team in his role and how great he was in his role.

“There’s changes every year on rosters and that’s part of football. Certainly, we’re always trying to do everything we can to try to move the team in a direction that we think it needs to go, whether it’s by position or maybe the overall look of the team and what that looks like. But Devon Kennard is outstanding. He’s a great player, he’s a great person and really, it was great. I loved coaching him.”


ESPN reported Wednesday that the Lions will host former Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard on a free agent visit. Sheard had 13 sacks for the Patriots in 2015-16, under Patricia as defensive coordinator. He played in 13 games for the Indianapolis Colts last season.

“Obviously, I coached him and loved working with him,” Patricia said. “A really dynamic guy at the time and just really enjoyed being around him. He’s a great guy, he works really hard, is disruptive in the pass rush and all that stuff, too.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content. 

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