Every offseason, as part of a continued effort to hone his skills and evolve his game, linebacker Devon Kennard studies tape on other players around the league he either admires or would like to take something from their game and incorporate it into his own.
This offseason, it entailed watching some of the league's top pass rushers. It's become a big part of Kennard's role in Detroit's defensive scheme. Kennard rushed the passer on nearly 84 percent of the passing snaps he played last season. He finished second on the team with 7.0 sacks. He also added 46 tackles.
"I've always kind of watched film," Kennard said. "Offseason is a unique time of year where I don't have to worry about a game plan or 'What's their favorite play or how are they going to block me on this?' It's a time where you can kind of take a step back and analyze not only your game, but other players' games that you respect and like."
Kennard didn't get into specifics of which players he's watched. It's something he's done every offseason, but this offseason was a little different in that he approached it with very specific knowledge of how the Lions use him in their scheme and what's expected of him moving forward.
Knowing that allowed him to approach his film study with a specific goal of honing in on the things he wanted to improve he felt could have an immediate impact for him as a pass rusher.
"I was able to kind of pinpoint guys that pass rush wise I like and like their game," he said. "It was fun to watch. There's some great pass rushers that did some great things last year.
"Seeing what they did and seeing what things fit with what I do and how I can add it to my game this year coming up is something I'm excited about."
Kennard dabbled as an edge rusher in New York for the Giants early in his career, but last season in Detroit was the first time he held that role mostly full time. He finished with 33 total quarterback pressures, which ranked 21st among standup outside edge rushers. He's hoping the comfort level of this being year two in the scheme, plus some of the film work he did on his own this offseason, will help him climb higher up that list and be even more impactful in his role this upcoming season.
"I can take something from anybody," Kennard said of continually trying to improve his craft. "I'm very humble in that regard. I try to gain as much knowledge and understanding (as I can). This is my second season being used how I'm used now, so I feel like I want to make another big jump like I did last year and that's what I'm focused on."