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Devon Kennard Looks Forward To 'Fresh Start' After Rough 2020

Notes: Backup OL gets work with protocol issues; Hopkins back at practice

Linebacker Devon Kennard talks technique with injured linebacker Dennis Gardeck at practice Friday.
Linebacker Devon Kennard talks technique with injured linebacker Dennis Gardeck at practice Friday.

Devon Kennard likes to read books – or listen to them, on the drive to State Farm Stadium for training camp each day.

The outside linebacker recently read "Shoe Dog," about Nike's Phil Knight, and is now listening to "Chop Wood, Carry Water: How To Fall In Love With The Process Of Becoming Great."

Step one to help Kennard be great would be to avoid the pitfalls that befell his first season as a Cardinal in 2020.

"Last year was a frustrating year for me," Kennard said. "But I flushed that down the toilet after the year."

Kennard was signed to his hometown team last year to pair with Chandler Jones, and was part of the plan early. He averaged 39 snaps a game in his first three games, and after a calf injury kept him out two games, he played 61 and 57 snaps the games after that.

But then he missed 10 days and a game because of Covid – right after the Cardinals had traded for Markus Golden. With Haason Reddick and Dennis Gardeck doing well at outside linebacker, it was Kennard who lost snaps – playing more than 19 defensive snaps just twice in the last eight games.

He had three sacks but a career-low 17 tackles in his 13 games. There was some speculation the Cardinals might even move on from him entering the offseason, but with Gardeck rehabbing from an ACL tear and Reddick leaving as a free agent, the Cardinals need Kennard to have the bounceback year he also seeks.

Even the fans at Friday's practice were exciting to Kennard, who didn't quite get the homecoming he was hoping for – he played at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee – because of the pandemic.

"Those are things I was looking forward to last year and I didn't get to experience, so I'm looking forward to embrace that," he said.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph praised Kennard's toughness and intelligence and how focused Kennard has been. Kennard just wants to think about 2021.

"I just looked at this year as a fresh start," Kennard said.

OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH HELPED LONG-TERM WITH SHORT-TERM COVID ISSUES

The Cardinals still have nine players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which isn't ideal, but given that three are presumed starters along the offensive line – center Rodney Hudson, guard Justin Pugh and tackle Kelvin Beachum – it does give some reps to backups who will need the work going into the season.

"That's been a blessing in disguise – obviously you don't want to have three of your starting linemen out, but to be able to get those guys' feet wet against top competition defensively and get reps with Kyler, I think will pay dividends," coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

Max Garcia has been the No. 1 center with Hudson out, Justin Murray is playing in Pugh's place and second-year man Josh Jones is at right tackle instead of Beachum. Given that Jones has also been talked about at guard – and the hope is that he can eventually work well at right tackle – the time may be most valuable to him.

"We felt like he had a great offseason, stayed in the weight room with Buddy (Morris) and really changed his body. He still has to get used to the speed of the game and we will work on that throughout camp.

HOPKINS RETURNS

DeAndre Hopkins returned from the "minor thing" that caused him to miss Thursday's practice and Kingsbury said he was fine. He looked it, especially on one jump ball touchdown over cornerback Robert Alford.

Images from the third practice of training camp in 2021.

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