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Devon Kennard should thrive in Vance Joseph’s defense

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Kennard will have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2020 than he has ever had in his career

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Finding a pass rusher opposite Chandler Jones has been a difficult task for the Arizona Cardinals the last few seasons.

They have not had quality production from the outside linebacker position opposite Jones since Markus Golden’s 12.5-sack season in 2016.

Over the years, GM Steve Keim signed pass rushers that were nearing the end of their careers such as Terrell Suggs, John Abraham and Dwight Freeney. These were short-term fixes that lasted no long than a year.

For the first time in what feels like forever, Keim was aggressive in free agency and inked Devon Kennard, an Arizona native, to a three-year deal to pair with their All-Pro pass rusher.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Entering his seventh season in the NFL, Kennard (6-3 256lbs) is coming off back-to-back seven-sack seasons with the Lions but was never exactly a designated pass rusher in his career.

He was utilized in multiple ways as a pass rusher, run stopper, and coverage guy due to his athleticism. Every year, he was a player that consistently improved in all facets of his game.

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Kennard could always be relied on by his coaches and teammates, which was why he was voted for team captain and was a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the Detroit Lions in 2019.

Last season, Chandler Jones took coverage duties away from Suggs as a player that was more athletic. It was hard to watch Jones drop into coverage at times especially since it is not his strength and he was needed as a pass rusher during those plays. Vance Joseph’s idea of keeping team guessing confused the Cardinals more than anything else.

Considering Kennard’s coverage ability and the talented additions in De’Vondre Campbell and Isaiah Simmons, it is fair to say that Jones’ days of dropping into coverage are over. With multiple linebackers that can cover, Joseph might not even need Kennard in coverage as he can have him solely focus on rushing the passer.

The seven-sack season is only the floor of Kennard’s potential as a pass rusher. With less duties in coverage and being primarily a pass rusher really for the first time in his career, he could be in for a breakout 2020 season. The Jones-Kennard pass-rush duo will be fun to watch.