Utilized as a true Swiss Army knife on Monday Night Football, Ashtyn Davis unleashed his unique abilities for the New York Jets.
Ashtyn Davis’ starting debut at Arrowhead Stadium was an ugly one. What else would you expect from a third-round rookie (a raw one, at that) making his first NFL start against possibly the most explosive passing attack in league history?
In response to Davis’ struggles in that game, Gregg Williams massively altered his utilization of the lightning-quick California native. After playing Davis at free safety on 63.6% of his defensive snaps in Kansas City, Williams had Davis at free safety on just 24.7% of his snaps against New England. In turn, Williams regularly used Davis in a quasi-outside linebacker role. On Monday Night Football, Davis lined up at outside linebacker on 48.1% of his snaps after doing so just 6.1% of the time in his first start.
Davis thrived in his new Jamal Adams-esque role, earning a 75.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus that ranked eighth-best among qualified safeties in Week 9. Davis had a touchdown-saving tackle near the pylon, a clutch pass breakup in the fourth quarter, and a run stuff. He allowed just one first down completion in his direction over 26 coverage snaps and did not miss any tackles, collecting five tackles in total.
Let’s dig into the rookie’s impressive showing under the national spotlight.
We start out with an unspectacular but solid play that also showcases a mix of the different ways Davis was used.
Davis lines up across from the slot receiver in the position of a slot cornerback, but he is angled to the inside with his inside foot forward and his eyes on the quarterback, an alignment that an outside linebacker on the edge would typically use. As Cam Newton goes to deliver the handoff, Davis prepares to play the edge aggressively to funnel the run inside. When Davis realizes it’s a fake, he drops into his flat zone responsibility. Davis recognizes the deep route against the sideline and gets plenty of depth to take it away, prompting Newton to dump the ball off to Jakob Johnson. Davis breaks downhill to cut him down for six yards. Good zone coverage, good finish.
The Patriots are driving and attempting to tie the game with 4:53 to go in the fourth quarter. Davis makes an immensely clutch play on first-and-20 to keep the Jets in control. As the boundary side safety in Cover-2, Davis picks up Jakobi Meyers on the dig route and breaks on it aggressively as Newton winds up to deliver. Newton fires a dart into a great spot, but Davis arrives in a perfect position to contest the catch and is able to deflect the ball with his inside hand, turning second-and-3 into second-and-20. This is an example of the coverage play-making that can make Davis a star.