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2018 Detroit Lions roster review: No more excuses for Jarrad Davis

This has to be the linebacker’s year.

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Ever since the Lions drafted him in the first round of the 2017 draft, Jarrad Davis has been showered with praises from coaches and teammates. His work ethic is noticeably outstanding, his internal drive is obvious. The only thing missing is consistent play.

He clearly has the support of the organization, but he’ll need to improve on the field if he’s going to make it with the Detroit Lions long term. Let’s take a closer look at Davis’ 2018 season and what it may mean for his 2019 campaign.

Jarrad Davis

Expectations before 2018

Coming off an up-and-down rookie season, many were expecting a big improvement in 2018. Sure, it was a brand-new defense and scheme to learn, but head coach Matt Patricia has been billed as the linebacker whisperer, and expectations were that we’d see significant improvement with flashes of All-Pro play.

In the final six weeks for 2017, Davis was PFF’s fourth-best linebacker, so heading into Year 2, there were high expectations for the young linebacker. After all, we’re talking about a first-round draft pick.

Actual role in 2018

2018 stats: 16 games (16 starts): 100 tackles, 6.0 sacks, 5 passes defended, 1 FF
PFF grade: 51.4 (80th among linebackers)

Unfortunately, Davis couldn’t carry over the momentum with how he finished 2017 into the 2018 season. Early on, Davis was making a lot of the same mistakes he made in his rookie season. He fit the wrong gaps. He would overrun a tackle. His mental processing, at times, just seemed a tad too slow, and it would turn a 5-yard gain into a 50-yard gain.

PFF has the ugly details of his career thus far in a Lions uniform:

Davis has missed 36 tackles over the last two years while allowing nearly 80.0 percent of the passes targeting him to be completed for a passer rating of 106.8. Last season, his run-defense grade of 33.7 was third-worst among 92 qualifying linebackers.

However, there was one promising aspect of his game: his pass rush. Davis’ unique combination of speed, size, and strength makes him a dangerous option as a pass rusher, and his career-high 6.0 sacks was a clear representation of that talent. According to PFF, Davis was credited with 27 pressures, good for fourth-most among all NFL linebackers.

Outlook for 2019

Contract status: Signed through 2019 season

Despite another rough season, coaches continue to sing Davis’ praises.

Here’s just a sampling of what coaches have said this offseason.

Lions LB coach Al Golden:

“And he really made unbelievable gains, I thought last year, as a pass rusher, and I know he’s hungry for it now. He’s going to take the next step for us, for sure.”

Head coach Matt Patricia:

“He’s one of our better players and he’s out there in front, and it’s hard, because there hasn’t been that consistent, dynamic guy next to him that maybe has 10 years of experience.”

Lions GM Bob Quinn:

“It’s really unique that, fortune I’d say, that we were able to get Jarrad Davis a couple drafts ago. He can really play in any defense, which is great. We drafted him for the previous defense but he’s a really good fit in what we do now.”

Now Davis enters his third year, and he’s in the perfect situation to succeed. He has a year of experience to absorb Patricia’s defense. He has a talented defensive line in front of him that should allow him to roam pretty free. The Lions even drafted a versatile linebacker in Jahlani Tavai that should allow Davis to move around the defense and play to his own strengths.

After two disappointing seasons, now is the time to shine for Jarrad Davis. No more excuses allowed.

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