While Jarrad Davis’ sophomore season has not put him in any all-pro conversations, it does not take much to see how much he has improved in year two. A linebacker that looked a step behind for much on his rookie year has proven to be a fordable man at the center of the Lions defense this season.
The former first-round pick still has a long way to go until he reaches expectations. He still makes the occasional mistake, and he has yet to live up to his first-round billing. No one is more aware of his faults than he is, though. While the mistakes have been fewer and farther between in 2018, they prove to be more frustrating for him.
“It’s more frustrating now when I make mistakes,” Davis told reporters Thursday. “When I see something, I’m able to put two and two together and say, ‘Hey, you should have seen that coming.’”
Davis had struggles early in the season, but he grew as the year went on. He started the season as a liability in run defense and was partly responsible for the Lions’ leaky front seven. He benefited greatly from the addition of Damon Harrison Sr., though, and has been a force at the second level of the defense ever since.
His role has grown as well. Not only has he played in 100 percent of the defensive snaps in 12 of 15 games this season, but the coaching staff is asking him to do different things, as well. The linebacker became a regular part of the Detroit’s pass rushing packages and is usually on the field as a rusher on passing downs. Davis has clearly earned rapport with the Lions coaching staff and he is doing the most with the increased chances he is given. He has been credited with five sacks this season, compared to only two his rookie year.
But as his roles on the team increase, so do the amount of things that he has to work on.
“There’s so many different things,” Davis said about where he needs to improve, “My role expanded this year with pressures and blitzing.”
“I can definitely get better as a pass rusher. I could still improve in my [pass] coverage. Continue to improve as a tackler,” he added.
The linebacker is set to miss the playoffs once again in his young career. After barely missing out in 2017, Detroit never truly seemed to be in the playoff race this time around. For a player with the fire and competitiveness of Davis, that becomes frustrating.
“A lot, huge motivating factor,” the linebackers said about missing the playoffs once again. “You got this bad taste in your mouth. You gotta go home and sit down and watch playoff football.”
It gets even more frustrating when Davis accounts for the potential talent Detroit has on the roster.
“We got a team that’s good enough to go out there and play versus anybody,” he said.
As bombast as that may sound in the midst of a 5-10 season, Davis and his teammates have proven this season that they have what it takes to hang with the best. Detroit defeated a New England Patriots team that is set for a first-round bye in the playoffs way back in Week 3. They were a last-second field goal away from defeating the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys a week later. They had a chance to upset both the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears if not for a few late blunders.
While Detroit has been able to hang with the best, they have struggled in winnable games. The season started with an infamous Monday night blowout loss to the New York Jets. The team struggled against the Arizona Cardinals and a loss to a beatable Buffalo Bills team effectively ended their season in December.
“We didn’t do enough to win the games we needed to put ourselves in that situation,” Davis added, reflecting on some of the team’s shortcomings this season.
For now, he is focused on the task ahead. The Lions will be in Green Bay this week and have a chance to beat a team that has historically dominated them for the fourth time in a row. While the path from here to the Super Bowl may be long and winding, for Davis and the Lions, this week is as good as any to set forth in that direction.