When the New York Jets chose inside linebacker Demario Davis in the third round in 2012, it was thought that the Arkansas State product could take a few years to develop. Davis had a monster combine workout, running a 4.6 40 with 32 reps on the bench and a 38″ vertical. That kind of athleticism in a 6’2″, 239 lbs linebacker displayed a lot of potential, but there were still the standard questions about the ability of a small school player to translate his game to the NFL.
In his rookie season, Davis was solid, totaling 36 tackles, a safety and fumble recovery while mostly playing special teams as the backup to starting inside linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott. Towards the end of the season Davis started to receive work in the nickel package, and his athleticism helped him display impressive coverage skills for a linebacker.
This offseason, the Jets released Scott and turned the starting position over to Davis, who the team expected to be a three down linebacker. Rex Ryan raved about Davis all offseason, and the Jets believed they were onto something special.
Through the first three games of this season Davis has proven them right. He is currently second on the team in tackles, and he has been very impressive in both pass and run defense. Numbers simply don’t tell the story of Davis’ effectiveness, but watching him play shows how good he is becoming.
Davis is excellent at covering running backs out of the backfield, and he was a big reason why the New England Patriots struggled to move the ball against the Jets. Davis was equally impressive in his handling of Buffalo Bills star C.J. Spiller, who the Jets completely shut down. Davis has the speed to stay with running backs, and the smarts to read pass plays and recognize routes.
Davis is also becoming more and more effective when getting after the quarterback, and he recorded his first career sack Sunday against the Bills. That figures to be the first of many for Davis, whose athleticism makes him a nightmare for the guards trying to pick him up as a blitzer.
Davis’ best area may be as a run defender however. He has the type of sideline to sideline speed that teams covet in inside linebackers, and he is a huge part of the reason the Jets have one of the league’s top run defenses. Davis is strong enough to fill gaps and take on blockers, but fast enough to get outside and pursue perimeter plays. That type of versatility is a huge asset, and it makes Davis extremely effective.
Davis is only going to get better, and it won’t be long before the big play numbers (sacks, INTs, etc.) match the quality of his overall game. It appears that the Jets were right all along about Davis, and they are being rewarded already.