A Look of Jarrad Davis’ Performance In Weeks One Through Eight In 2017
Where Jarrad Davis Has Succeeded So Far
There are many reasons the Lions decided to take Jarrad Davis in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. His speed, athleticism, and leadership were three of his main positive attributes heading into this past year’s draft. So far, these traits traits have been on display for Davis this season.
The rookie’s speed and athleticism have shown up big in the running game this season. He has been flying all over the field and has been a major improvement in this area over Tahir Whitehead’s performance last year in the middle of the defense. But what has been particularly impressive about the rookie is that already you are seeing improvement in Davis’ ability to diagnose the plays. His ability to diagnose where the runs are going has helped him attack downhill quicker, leading to tackle opportunities behind the line of scrimmage.
One of the other facets of his game he has improved since college is his ability to shed blocks. At Florida, Jarrad Davis would often try to blow through a block with physicality, rather than utilizing his hands to shed them. The latter is a much more reliable method with good technique. This is something he is beginning to do and it is showing up on the field as well. This has helped Davis to third on the team in tackles, despite missing a third of the games played this year (2 of 6).
These improvements have helped Davis’ presence be felt when he is on the field and missed when he was gone. However, there are a couple of areas in college where Davis struggled and some of them are still present in the rookie.
What Still Needs Improvement From Davis
At Florida, pursuit angles, ability to shed blocks, health issues, and his missed tackles were marked as his major issues coming into the NFL. The block shedding is already trending in the right direction and you expect that to improve with more experience and coaching. However, Davis did also suffer a hit in week two that kept him off the field for the next two games due to a concussion injury.
Davis does not have a history of concussion injuries so that softens the concern of this dogging him in the NFL. But you do worry a little bit whenever a player with injury concerns get hit with an injury in their rookie year, especially with the unpredictable nature of concussion injuries.
However, injuries often aren’t a controllable part to the game from a player’s perspective. What Davis could use improvement upon this season is taking better angles and making sure tackles.
This play against the Panthers illustrates this need for improvement well. Jarrad Davis quickly diagnoses the screen and attacks downhill. Davis tries to blow past the blocker like he did in college. While he is mostly successful at it on this play, it takes him off the path to the ball-carrier and slows him down enough to make the tackle more difficult. However, he still is close enough to make the play, but leaves his feet and attempts the tackle too high.
As a result, the running back James Stewart breaks the tackle and continues on for nearly twenty more yards. If Davis had played with better discipline and fundamentals, the next play would have been 3rd and eight from the defense’s 32-yard line. But it ends up being 1st down and 10 on the 13-yard line. With how close the Lions’ games typically go, plays like this end up having a big impact on the outcome.
While the growth we have seen in other areas for Davis does show promise for the young rookie’s future, it’s important to remember he is only a rookie. Mistakes are going to happen. But, his ability to grow in terms of play diagnosis and shedding blocks in such a short time shows that Jarrad Davis is working hard to improve his flaws.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has had a knack for getting the most out of his defensive players. If the two of them working together can help Davis continue to correct these mistakes, it will be beneficial for turning those “impact plays” in the Lions’ favor.