Jarrad Davis’ days with the Detroit Lions could be numbered. The team just declined his fifth year option, they drafted a Jahlani Tavai with a second-round pick last year, and added Pro Bowl veteran Jamie Collins Sr. this offseason. But as Davis looks ahead to the 2020 season, all he does is feel a supreme sense of excitement.
“We got a lot of guys in the room right now that are going to breath a lot of competition at our linebacker position and help us become a better defense,” Davis said on a Zoom conference Thursday. “So I’m really excited just to get back to work.”
It’s been rough sledding for Davis in his first three years since the Lions took him 20th overall in 2017 NFL Draft. His PFF grades have been consistently low, his play has been plagued by missed tackles and blown assignments, and last year he had to deal with a lingering ankle injury for the first half of the season.
But if there’s anyone that knows his own struggles, it’s Davis. When asked to point out what he needs to improve upon from his first three years in the NFL, the Lions linebacker had two quick answers.
“I need to continue to get better in the run game. You can always improve in that area,” Davis said. “I have the talent to be a good coverage linebacker, but I just haven’t been able to show exactly what I can do in that area, whether it be from just overthinking or just trying to do too much.”
With the additions of Collins and other former Patriots who are well versed in head coach Matt Patricia’s defense, Davis is confident that he’ll be able to learn and elevate his game.
“Individually, I think I can learn a lot from these guys to help me develop as a player,” Davis said. “As a collective unit, it’s going to make us a lot better. These guys who have been in the system, they’re going to come in, they’re going to know different tricks and trades that are going to help us speed this up and make us a more efficient defense. There’s just so much more talent they bring to the table as well, just as football players. So I’m just really excited, man.”
There’s that word again: Excited.
And while the team declined Davis’ fifth-year option earlier this month, Patricia expressed his confidence and faith in the linebacker last week.
“I think JD is a cornerstone of what we’re trying to do,” Patricia said. “He’s in those big-picture plans in where we’re trying to go. We’ll, like I said, make sure that we have the best season that we can this year and go from there.”
Davis said the competition doesn’t put a chip on his shoulder, and he feels no disrespect or animosity towards the coaching staff for their decision to decline his option. Instead, he’ll just go about business as he typically does, working to get better every day, and, hopefully, put the bad days behind him.
“These are guys that are very highly-touted linebackers and I’ve been watching them for a long time in the NFL,” Davis said. “I’m honestly excited to have them in the room with me. We’re going to be bouncing ideas—we’ve been bouncing ideas off each other already, seeing what each other knows. We’re also continuing to just develop relationships with each other. It’s an exciting group to be a part of.”
I think he’s excited.