I saw Demario Davis early in the 2011 college football season, it was by pure accident. However in that game the young product raced 40 yards sideline to sideline and delivered a devastating blow to the ball carrier. He then preceded to ensure the defense was ready for the next play, shouting and positioning his linebackers, what followed was a 3rd down incompletion intended for the man Davis was covering.
After this, I started looking for any clips, interviews, or comments on Davis, and then shortly after that I wrote my scouting report on him in February 2012. I believed that Demario had something special and I also campaigned for his selection for the best part of 2 months. When the Jets selected Demario I was out and about, nowhere close to a TV screen. My phone started going crazy, with emails, messages and twitter mentions confirming that Davis was now a Jet. Pure excitement took over, as at that point, I truly believed that we had the next great linebacker.
2012 was a tough season for Davis as he played second fiddle to Bart Scott. Although his increase in playing time coincided with the decrease in Scott's ability, the player I saw at Arkansas State wasn't truly coming across, we saw flashes but no sustained ability. However the first season in the NFL is tough for anyone, first round picks find it hard, 2nd round picks find it very hard and third round picks, especially on the defensive side of the football find it difficult.
I think in today's game we sometimes expect instant results. If a player isn't a pro-bowler his first season, we start to question his ability and his ceiling. There are more statistical analytical sites on the internet than ever before, however even those sites are created and populated by an individual's interpretation of a play. I will never 100% trust any statistics, not over what I see myself. That's just a personal preference for me.
Davis started 3 games in 2012, and played in all 16 as a reserve linebacker and special teamer. He recorded 36 tackles, 31 of which were solo stops. However he often had poor play recognition, biting on play mis-direction. He often didn't trust his instincts, which limited his speed. However there were moments when you thought, this guy can be a great player.
This season I've been impressed with Demario and his improvement in every aspect of his game. Yes he does still need to work on his coverage skills and I'd like to see him create more turnovers and get to the QB a little more. However his improvement has been evident for everyone to see, and I've got a few short clips just highlighting a handful of plays that Davis has been involved in this season:
First of all this is a play with Demario in coverage. His man does not run the hardest route, but Davis sticks to him for the entirety of it and then makes a great heads up play to locate the ball and make a diving interception on a ball topped by Landry. This isn't the hardest play that you'll, but his movement in coverage is fundamentally sound and his recognition to locate the ball and the play after the throw is excellent.
Now we are going to move onto plays that highlight what Demario does best when he is on form, and that's stuffing the runs and using his instincts to take the correct first steps.
One thing that I really do want to make clear is these are not phenomenal highlight reel plays. These are plays that are fundamentally sound and make a different to the game in general. You need your linebackers to be able to diagnose a play, not be fooled by what the offence are showing them and react swiftly to what's happening in front of them. This is a combination play between #98 Quinton Coples and then #56 Demario Davis.
This is something that I want to see more from Davis, however lets remember that this is his first full season starting in New York. I love my linebackers to have a high motor, good speed and a lot of strength. The above play highlights all of those, and Demario seems to come up with plays in important situation, on 3rd and short, or 4th and short. I fully expect Davis's game to include more sacks as we go through his career, but this still remains one of my favourite plays this season.
Again, this is just a case of locating the football, taking the right first step, having good awareness and then making the tackle. All very simple, but it really is surprising how many linebackers struggle with this. This is another example of Demario coming up with a big play at the right time, with some help from his Defensive line.
Finally we are going to go to another play from the New England game, again in a very short yardage situation:
These are just a handful of plays that I remembered this season but there were plenty more to choose from. Him running down a very speedy Vincent Jackson in week one to prevent a touchdown was one that I don't think we can really forget about.
Demario is a deeply religious man who believes the Jets were destined to do something special this season. We have already won more games than most thought we would all season, so the Jets may well do something special this season and surprise the whole nation. However to do that, Davis himself will have to continue his fine form and maintain the steep curve his improvement has taken.
I have full faith in Demario Davis, his ability, and his future as a New York Jets. I'd also like to mention that playing next to Davis we are seeing the best David Harris we have seen in a couple of years. You still wouldn't want him to run with many people, but in terms of stopping the run, Harris is back to being a guy you can rely on. Davis is already an improvement in coverage over Scott and Harris, so if he can continue to improve in that area, in 2014/2015, we'll see the best we've seen.
So be patient, remember he's in his 1st year as a starter and he wasn't a top 10 selection. We've already got 60 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception from Davis this season, and in my humble opinion, that's just the start.