Allen Park — The Detroit Lions officially have a pair of new linebackers. The team formalized agreements with Devon Kennard and Christian Jones on Thursday morning, signing both to multi-year contracts.
During back-to-back conference calls with local media, neither player claimed to have any idea on how they’ll be used in Detroit’s new defensive scheme. The lure, according to both, was the opportunities they expected to have with the Lions and the prospect of playing for coach Matt Patricia, who drew praise from Kennard and Jones.
After meeting with Patricia, Jones said the coach’s energy stood out.
“(He will be) fun to work with,” Jones said. “We all know what he’s done in the past with New England. Obviously, that’s something that excites me and the other guys who signed.
Kennard was more specific about how Patricia’s success in New England was a draw.
“As far as Matt Patricia and his defense, I watch a lot of film and I really admire what he’s done on the defensive side of the ball for a long time,” Kennard said. “I’m definitely familiar with him and the scheme that he uses and the success he’s had with New England for so long.”
Both players are known for their versatility. Kennard, a 6-foot-4, 256-pound strongside linebacker, spent much of last season lining up along the line of scrimmage as an edge rusher for the New York Giants.
In an interview after the season, he noted that he played just under 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and was hoping to find a home where he could have a bigger role.
“You want an opportunity to play and show what you’re capable of doing and be in a good situation on a team that has some potential,” he said.
Jones had to battle his way back up the Bears’ depth chart last season, but wound up starting 11 games and tallying a career-high 90 tackles. He started his career as an undrafted free agent out of Florida State playing in a 4-3 defense, and spent the past three years working both inside and outside in coordinator Vic Fangio’s 3-4.
“I mean, it obviously has its advantages, being able to do a little bit of everything,” Jones said. “I just felt like I’m a player that plays hard in any situation, whether covering, blitzing or even playing the run. I think I can do all those pretty well.”
Even though he didn’t do it often, Jones excelled as a blitzer last season, getting pressure on nine of his 44 rush attempts. That includes a pair of sacks of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Jones is hopeful the Lions use him a little more in that role.
“Yeah, that would be great,” he said. “This is a passing league and the more pressure you can get on these quarterbacks, the better. I feel like we’ve got a lot of guys on the team that can get after the quarterback. It should be fun.”
Kennard wasn’t as consistently as impactful rushing the passer, understandable considered he was undersized for his role last season. Still, he believes it’s his biggest opportunity to impact a game.
“I love the opportunity to put pressure on the quarterback,” Kennard said. “I think the greatest play in football is the sack-caused fumble, in my opinion. Any opportunity to help my team in that way is something I look forward to doing. We’ll see how much if at all I’ll be doing that come season.”
As both players pointed out, this is their first day with the team. Their roles will be more clearly defined once the team begins its offseason program and general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia’s vision for the acquisitions can play out the field.
“I signed here in Detroit because I felt like this would be a place where I thought I can flourish,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of things in place here, and it was exciting for me to be part of what they got going on.”