When watching game film of New York Jets’ 3rd round pick DeMario Davis, one word comes to mind: Boom! The Linebacker from Arkansas State may very well be one of the hardest hitters in this entire draft class. Among that, Davis possesses a very balanced skill set that gives him the potential to be an absolute steal as a third round selection. The young man that has recently drawn comparisons to Ray Lewis from the Jets coaching staff, in terms of his demeanor, attitude, and leadership ability. He proved that he can excel in all aspects of the game during his career at Arkansas State.
Other than being a very tough, hard-hitting player, Davis also possesses the read and reaction skills needed in a good linebacker. One of the best traits in his game is that there is no hesitation in his reaction time whatsoever. When a hole opens on a run play, or a pass rush lane on a blitz, Davis is very fast to hit the seam, which gives him an immediate advantage in making plays. He is able to fly to the ball from anywhere on the field, aided partly by his impressive speed, but primarily from his instinct and vast knowledge of the game.
Davis also has elite speed and athleticism as a linebacker. He is extremely fast and explosive out of his breaks, and can transition between his movements very smoothly. He has shown the ability to rush the passer from both the interior and off the edge, which is going to make him a very versatile weapon for Rex Ryan and the Jets’ defensive coaching staff. He has a good arsenal of pass rush moves to couple with his tremendous speed, which should make him a valuable asset to a defense that had so much difficulty getting to the quarterback last year.
What Davis needs to work on the most, to truly be able to succeed at the next level, is his ability to shed blockers. He is usually fantastic at taking on the lead blocker in the hole, always using the correct shoulder and superior aggressiveness to blow up the fullback or wrapping guard as they come through, however he struggles to defend straight on blocks from offensive linemen. Davis too often allows linemen to get into him, making it virtually impossible for him to regroup in time to make a play. He needs to improve his hand action to be able to strike a quick move and get off the block immediately, rather than wasting time getting tangled up with the blocker. Effective handwork will also assist Davis in avoiding cut blocks, something that became frequent against him as last season progressed. When a linebacker plays with as much intensity and tenacity as Davis does, some offensive players tend to shy away from contact after a while throughout the course of a game. This may not necessarily happen at the next level, but in the event that it does, improved handwork will allow Davis to avoid this more often than not.
Davis’s coverage skills are not great, but decent. What works best for him in pass coverage is his physicality and speed. He is very aggressive against receivers coming over the middle, or backs out of the backfield. His technique in coverage is far from perfect, however he was able to mask that in college due to his outstanding speed. This is something that he will need to improve upon at the next level, where the majority of offensive backs and receivers are going to be faster than he is. These are simple coaching points that will be made once he gets into camp.
What is most impressive about DeMario Davis’s game film is his motor. He is constantly moving all over the field, sideline to sideline, regardless of the situation. He is very tough, and hits just as hard, if not harder than any defensive player that was taken this year. Davis was also a very good special teams contributor, as there were countless plays last season in which he blew up blockers and ball carriers alike during his time on the kickoff team. This will likely be a large part of his role with the Jets this season, so his experience here is extremely important.
Davis brings an intimidating presence to the field. While watching him on film, you can just feel the attitude he plays with. He is passionate, a natural leader, and seems to want it more than anyone else on the field at all times. He has been very productive during his time as a starter at Arkansas State. Since 2009, he has compiled 201 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Also, as previously stated, Davis is extremely fast. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine, but was reportedly in the low 4.5 range at his pro day. Either way, his extreme tenacity, speed, leadership ability, and versatility make him a perfect fit for the Jets.
Davis is a Rex Ryan type player, and he should have a tremendous future in New York. As for this year, expect to see him in some sub packages, most likely on third downs as either a blitzer or in coverage. He should have a heavy role on special teams, something he will undoubtedly succeed at, while learning the defensive system behind David Harris and Bart Scott. Eventually, he will be the successor to Scott, and should form a very potent duo on the inside with Harris in the future.
Editor’s Note – Davis is a bit raw in some areas but I think he is a player Jets fans are going to fall in love with in the coming years. His motor and speed reminds me of what we saw from Aaron Maybin last year, except Davis has the tools to be a complete linebacker. Look for him to contribute in sub packages and be pushing Bart Scott heavily for playing time all season, until ultimately taking over for him next year.