Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is linebacker Demario Davis.
Demario Davis is a 28 year old, 6' 2", 240 pound running back out of Arkansas State University. In high school Demario Davis was a three sport star, playing wide receiver and linebacker in football, power forward in basketball, and high jumper in track. At Arkansas State Davis was a tackling machine and developed a reputation for exceptional leadership. Davis was a standout at the NFL Combine, running a sub 4.6 40 yard dash, jumping a 38+ inch vertical, and bench pressing more reps (32) than any linebacker at the Combine, and more than most offensive linemen. Davis was then selected by the New York Jets with the 77th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Davis spent his first season in a Jets uniform backing up Bart Scott, then replaced him in the starting lineup in 2013. Although Davis consistently racked up solid tackle numbers with the Jets he proved to be a liability in pass coverage and often over pursued ball carriers and missed his gap responsibilities. In 2015 a new regime took over for the Jets and head coach Todd Bowles quickly became disenchanted with Davis’ continuing liabilities on the field. Backup Erin Henderson increasingly took over Davis’ snaps as the season wore on, and when Davis’ contract expired at the end of the 2015 season, the Jets made no effort to re-sign him.
Demario Davis signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, but after one season in Cleveland the Browns had seen enough and shipped Davis back to the Jets in exchange for safety Calvin Pryor. Back with the Jets Demario Davis immediately stepped into the starting lineup, replacing departed inside linebacker David Harris. Davis’ tackle numbers with the Jets this season have been exceptional. He is currently leading the team in tackles by a wide margin with 67, good for fourth most tackles in the NFL. Despite the large tackle numbers, the 2017 season began with Davis exhibiting all his old flaws. However, as the season has worn on Demario Davis has turned his performances around and gotten better in hitting the right gaps. He has also become something of a force in blitzing the quarterback.
Demario Davis’ abilities as a run stopper are what puts him in the spotlight tonight. The formula for beating the Buffalo Bills this season has been simple. First, play them at home. The Bills have not lost in Buffalo this year, but are 1-2 on the road. Second, limit LeSean McCoy to under 100 yards from scrimmage. Teams that have done that at home are 2-0 against the Bills. McCoy pretty much is the Bills offense. Shut him down and the Bills can’t consistently move the ball. Heck, even with McCoy playing well the Bills can’t consistently move the ball. Without McCoy playing well the Bills are barely an NFL offense. That puts Demario Davis squarely in the middle of the Jets game plan for winning tonight’s game against the Bills.
Stopping a great running back is never a one man job. It takes the entire front seven along with some great safety play to fully implement a game plan to stop a runner like McCoy. Nonetheless the inside linebackers in this Jets defense are the primary tacklers against the run, so it will be up to Davis and his running mate Darron Lee to maintain discipline against the shifty McCoy, shed some blocks, and fill the right gaps. In the season opener Davis did not do well at this, despite posting some gaudy tackle numbers. McCoy went off for nearly 160 yards from scrimmage and the Jets were sent packing from Buffalo with a 21-12 loss. Demario Davis and his Jets defense running mates will need to do better tonight or the Bills will likely emerge victorious again.
If Demario Davis can manage one of his better games this year and, along with his defensive teammates, help shut down LeSean McCoy the Jets should be able to beat the Bills. If however we see a repeat of the poor play the Jets got from their linebackers in the season opener the Bills will likely sweep the Jets. Demario Davis, this is your time in the spotlight with the Jets. This is your chance to show you’re better than you were in your first Jets go around. Let’s see what you’ve got.