2012 Bart Scott vs. 2013 Demario Davis - a statistical comparison

I have to admit it. I was hard on Rex Ryan and company riding Bart Scott in 2012 despite his many game blowing plays and despite the fact that Scott was on his last leg (toe), choosing to not give Davis the playing time to develop and mature. Even when the season was out of reach Davis found himself on the bench pretty often which simply made no sense - and kinda doesn't even now. Yet, we have been lead to believe that Davis the "natural leader" has been groomed to take over this defense, that this lighter-bodied, supposedly very fast linebacker is the future of a defense that depends heavily on the prowess of its middle linebackers.

So it is deserving to see what Davis's first full season looks like compared to how Scott played in his last partial season. Just what did we get in the upgrade to youth? How did Davis compare in terms of performance to a pretty woeful season by Scott who was about to retire. Below are the Pro Football Focus stats for middle linebacker, as well as the Advance NFL Stats for the same.

Bart Scott kind of cleans Davis's clock, despite Davis getting an entire additional preseason of practice as the de facto starter, plenty of time to commit to and learn the nuances of the position. When we break it down Scott was by far a better run stopper, and a better pass rusher, two of the three biggest dimensions of the job. They both were poor tacklers in terms of missed tackle frequency. The only question mark between them was in pass defense. Who was worse? --- and Davis was pretty bad for a guy whose strength is supposed to be speed - he may be able to run with receivers, but defending passes isn't his forte. Davis gave up a reception far more frequently per cover which means he was a successful target for the offense more frequently. But Scott gave up much more yardage when targeted, suggesting bigger plays on average. Both had poor completion percentages.

And lastly the Advanced NFL Statistic measures which attempt to weigh a players impact on actual games - who helps his team win by situation? - put things strongly in Scott's favor. Davis really was significantly outplayed by Bart Scott on his last legs, a Scott that had most Jet fans crying for his benching. It is interesting how pretty much the same poor play can be perceived so differently. Scott of 2012 was "my Lord, get him out of there!", and Davis of 2013 was "He's doing pretty good, a solid young linebacker!" to some. There has to be concern about just how much of a learning curve Davis is facing, and after two years in the league what kind of ceiling Davis has. It is okay to be fast, but if you don't have pass defense skills, don't defend well in a zone, don't tackle very well and aren't a monster in the pass rush, what exactly is your strength? Is he just shooting to become an all-around linebacker, and if so, does he have the football acumen to make an impact in that way?

Do we need to draft a low-round middle linebacker as a contingency plan?

Perhaps this is also an advisory to fans who simply call for us to get "faster, younger".

Note: PFF rankings with an * mean that the 25% of stats were used to make rank comparisons equivalent.

B. Scott 2012 D. Davis 2013
Run Stop % 9.1 (12th) 7.1 (30th)
Pass Rush Productivity
16.1 (7th*) 13.1 (19th*)
Tackling Efficiency 6.6 (33rd) 7.7 (34th)
Cover snaps/receptions 11.9 (15th*) 8.8 (45th*)
Yards per Target allowed
11.75 (46th*) 7.8 (39th*)
Completion % allowed
81.25 (42nd*) 80.0 (36th*)
WPA 1.41 (25th) 1.09 (57th)
EPA/g 2.77 (48th) 2.11 (78th)
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