I’m not one to make a hasty judgment for a player in the NFL. If anything, I find myself a little too patient at times. I still think Ameer Abdullah can be a good running back in this league, even possibly a starter. Hell, I’m still holding out hope DeAndre Levy makes it back onto an NFL roster, even though I know it’ll never happen.
So it’s not easy for me to say this, but Jarrad Davis’ play has me concerned about his long-term career in Detroit. I’m not ready to throw around the “b-word” yet, but Davis’ performance thus far has not inspired any faith in him thus far, and it could really hurt the Detroit Lions both in 2018 and going forward.
Let’s start with the good from Davis. He’s athletically gifted with every physical tool in the book needed to be a special player in this league. And those physical gifts are easy to see on film. He’s constantly knifing into the backfield thanks to excellent speed and above-average instincts, and when he connects with his target, he can seriously lay the boom.
But that’s where things get problematic. Davis can’t consistently hone those skills into something positive. He’s X-Men’s Cyclops without his visor: capable of mayhem and disaster at any random moment. It doesn’t take a film expert to see that from the tape this preseason.
Bucs made their first drive look easy. Peyton Barber scored the TD on the Lions. pic.twitter.com/KFgrewNVBB— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) August 25, 2018
Of course, Davis isn’t even into his second season in the NFL and the kid is only 23 years old. He also happens to have a head coach who specializes in developing linebackers specifically, and there are bound to be hiccups in the process of learning a new, complicated scheme.
All of those are great reasons to not give Davis the “bust” label or completely give up on him yet.
But it would be foolish to overlook some of these issues, especially since they are recurring, going back to Davis’ college days at Florida.
Chief among those concerns are his coverage skills, or lack thereof. Last year, his coverage was such a liability that the Lions had to take him off the field on third downs. The Lions slowly gained faith in him toward the end of the season, but early signs in 2018 show that the problem is anything but fixed.
And then there are the wildly missed tackles. Davis can’t seem to control his own speed, and that leads to poorly-formed tackling attempts. Again, this was something we’ve common seen throughout Davis’ career and it has manifested itself during the preseason:
Looking at his Pro Football Focus scouting profile out of college points out both of these weaknesses right away:
- Out of control far too often on tackles – does not break down, tends to leave his feet far too often and never seems to get squared up to the runner.
- Has the physical traits to play in coverage but tends to misdiagnose targets or lose his man in space.
It’s more of the same from Yahoo! Sports’ profile:
Davis plays like his hair is on fire at times, and it can lead him into trouble by overrunning plays, overshooting gaps and going high too much. His tackling consistency is something his NFL coaches will need to work on with him.
Of course, it’s that last point made by Yahoo’s Eric Edholm that’s important to keep in mind. Davis will need expert coaching if he is going to fix these issues because they’re clearly manifesting themselves in his game right now and it’s hurting the Lions.
It’s unrealistic to expect Patricia to have all of Davis’ issues fixed at this point in his career, and if we’re being totally honest, Davis is never going to be a perfect product. But still, you’d hope to see at least some progress in Davis’ game by now because he’s still making the same mistakes he’s been making for the past for the past five years.
It’s hard to know exactly what the problem is. Davis is, by all means, an incredibly hard worker and checks off all of the personality boxes needed to succeed in this league. Perhaps his poor technique is just too ingrained to overcome, or maybe he has just dealt with coaching staffs too willing to look the other way when it comes to his limitations. Either way, right now, I’m concerned for Davis in the immediate—and his future in Detroit.