The Cardinals didn't know Devon Kennard would eventually be available as a free agent when he was piling up three sacks against them and then-rookie quarterback Kyler Murray during last year's tie against the Lions.
Kennard, now Murray's teammate, can't even say if he'd be able to have the same kind of game if he'd have to see him again.
"I don't think anyone wants Kyler in the open field right now," Kennard said Thursday. "Seeing what he's doing, even to defensive backs, there aren't that many people who want that smoke."
Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph wasn't watching Kennard that day, focusing on his own unit. But he did want Kennard, the Phoenix native and Desert Vista High product, on his team when the Lions cut him.
"When he became available, he was obviously someone we wanted to make part of our defense because he was a natural SAM 'backer, and that position is so hard to find in this league," said Joseph, praising Kennard's ability to both hold up against the run and play against the pass.
Kennard's first sack as a Cardinal came last week, fittingly in his home debut in his home state. This week, he'll benefit from the Cardinals' test run of fans, with his parents, wife and brother able to watch him play against his former team.
Of course, earlier this year, Kennard would've expected to be playing in the game but in a Lions uniform. He acknowledged earlier in the offseason he was surprised when the Lions cut him. Detroit coach Matt Patricia didn't get into specifics about Kennard's release, but lauded Kennard's time in Detroit.
"I had a very special relationship with him, talk to him, and really enjoyed coaching him, enjoyed him as a person," Patricia said. "I really have nothing but great things to say about him and what he did when he got here and how much he helped this team and how great he was in his role. There are changes every year on rosters. That's part of football."
Kennard also seems unfazed by the move these days, no doubt aided by his ability to play for the hometown team.
"You've got to move on," Kennard said. "Football happens. It seems like a lifetime ago now how this whole season and offseason has gone. That's the last thing on my mind."
Instead, Kennard is prepping to face his old team, and giving the Cardinals whatever tips he can against his old club. Maybe he can even sack Matthew Stafford three times, and balance the ledger.
"I remember being upset DK had such a good game against us," linebacker Chandler Jones said. "Maybe if DK didn't get all those sacks, we wouldn't have tied.
"I'm glad he's on our side now."
KENYAN THE CLOSER
Running back Kenyan Drake is looking for his first 100-yard game, and he's been solid with his overall stats. But where he has been important has been in the fourth quarter – when the Cardinals have leaned on him and he has produced.
Drake has 36 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown in two games – and 84 of those yards, on 17 carries, and that TD came in the fourth quarters.
"We really feel like Kenyan gets stronger as the game goes on," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "He's been great at closing out games, having some tough runs late. … Obviously, we'd like to have some bigger runs in the run game early, but it's worked out the last couple of weeks that he's had the ball in his hands late."
Murray said any player wants to get more snaps and get into a rhythm. Drake's best two runs against Washington came in his final four carries.
"Earlier in the game, he was a little frustrated with the way he was playing and then in the four minutes situation he kind of just took the game over," Murray said. "We ended the game on our terms."
KIRK MISSES SECOND PRACTICE
Wide receiver Christian Kirk missed a second straight practice Thursday with a groin injury. The Cardinals have a lot of options at the position, including giving a role to KeeSean Johnson, who returned this week from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Cardinals also now have four wide receivers on the practice squad, including veteran Jaron Brown, who was signed this week. A.J. Richardson, JoJo Ward and Andre Patton are the others available.
Center Mason Cole (hamstring) also remained sidelined for the Cardinals, although defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (ankle) was upgraded to limited.
For the Lions, tight end Hunter Bryant (hamstring) was downgraded to DNP. Cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), safety C.J. Moore (calf), tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (tackle) and defensive tackle Nick Williams (foot) were all limited.