#73, Jimmy Kennedy, DT
(6040, 320, 5.09-5.24 coming out) Penn State
Notes: Born Jimmy Wayne Kennedy, 11/15/79, in Yonkers, New York, where he attended Roosevelt High School and helped the football program to a 30-3 record in three seasons. Under coach Tony DeMatteo, he earned All-American, All-City, All-Conference, All-State, Team MVP and local High School Heisman Trophy honors sponsored by the Downtown Athletic Club. In his junior year, Roosevelt was 12-0 and won the state championship. After his senior year he played in the Governor's Bowl, featuring the best prep players in New York against the best players in New Jersey.
College: Showed up weighing more than 400 pounds as a freshman out of high school in 1998 and redshirted. Played in every game (started six) as a redshirt freshman in 1999; finished with 33 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss and 0.5 sacks. He posted 42 tackles, 9 TFL and 6 sacks as a sophomore in 2000. Kennedy started every game as a junior in 2001 and recorded 51 tackles, 8 TFL and 1.5 sacks en route to honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. As a senior (2002), he posted a career-high 87 tackles, 16 TFL, 3 pass breakups and ranked second on the team with 5.5 sacks as he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named Defensive Lineman of the Year. As a four-year letterman at Penn State, he finished his college career with 213 tackles, 14 sacks and 39 tackles-for-loss. Kennedy graduated with a degree in rehabilitation services education.
Pre-Draft: Checked in at 6040 (6-foot-4), 322 pounds prior to the NFL Draft, with 17.4% body fat, 33-inch arms, 9 ¾-inch hands, did 23 reps at 225 pounds, ran a 5.09-5.24 40-yard dash, recorded a 30-inch vertical jump, 8-3 broad jump, 4.72 short shuttle and a 8.06 three-cone drill time. The Vikings were among teams at the time who had Kennedy in for predraft visits. Interestingly, Kennedy was rated ahead of Kevin Williams, whom the Vikings selected ahead of him, by both Mel Kiper, Jr. and the late Joel Buchsbaum, noted draftniks of the era.
Pro: Originally a first-round pick (No. 12 overall) by the St. Louis Rams in the 2003 NFL Draft. Kennedy signed a five-year, $9 million contract that included a $5 million signing bonus as a rookie; subsequently played in 13 games (zero starts) and made only one tackle, one assist and one pass deflection. He played in the final nine games (starting five) in 2004, posting 16 tackles and one pass deflection; also started both postseason games and added nine tackles and one sack. In 2005, he started the first nine games of the season at nose tackle and saw action in 15 games, finishing with 33 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble. He started all 16 games at nose tackle for the Rams in 2006, recording 39 tackles, one sack, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
Kennedy was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2007 for a sixth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft; he was subsequently released by the Broncos at the start of the season. He was signed by the Chicago Bears in December 2007 and played in the final three games of the season, making three tackles.
As a restricted free agent following the year, he signed a one-year, $655,000 contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in March 2008, which the Bears declined to match. He played in six games with the Jaguars, making five tackles and one sack before being waived mid-season on November 24, 2008.
The Vikings signed Kennedy on December 3, 2008, to provide depth behind Pro Bowl defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams who were facing league-imposed suspensions at the time. A free agent following the 2008 season, he re-signed with the Vikings for one year (2009). He played in 13 games last season (starting once) and recorded 29 tackles, three sacks, four tackles-for-loss, two pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries during the regular season. He added another three tackles and one quarterback sack (of Cowboys' Tony Romo) in the playoffs. As an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he ultimately re-signed with the Vikings after a visit with the Buffalo Bills. He reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Vikings that could be worth as much as $6 million.
Positives: Kennedy is naturally massive and powerful. Good character and work ethic. Good football intelligence. He is quick off the ball, reads and reacts quickly and can neutralize blockers. Stays on his feet and can two-gap and dominate at the point of attack when he keeps his pad level low. Shows good foot quickness and agility to move down the line of scrimmage and make tackles in pursuit. Good feet and balance. Good short-area burst to the ball and quarterback. He can collapse the pocket on the pass rush. Showed explosiveness and a good motor this past season, making his presence felt on a regular basis whenever he played.
Negatives: He is not a quick-twitch, stop-on-a-dime athlete who changes directions quickly. He gets too high at times, negating his natural strength and power. He lacks great pass-rush skills and niftiness off the edge. Before 2009, he was inconsistent in his focus and motor and could be a non-factor for stretches.
Summary: Kennedy really seems to have reached his potential under Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who has a reputation for getting the most out of his players. Last season, he consistently gave the Vikings quality snaps in limited duty and was a play-making force at times.
Kevin Brown has been providing personnel analysis and writing about the Vikings for more than 20 years with Viking Update. Follow VU on Twitter and discuss this and other topics on our message boards.2009 Scout's Notebooks