Jarrad Davis offers a mix of upside and question marks for the New York Jets
C.J. Mosley has been in peak form for the New York Jets, but with fellow starter Jarrad Davis on the sidelines for six consecutive games to begin the regular season, the Jets have suffered from putrid play at the linebacker position outside of Mosley.
Fully recovered from the ankle injury he suffered in Week 2 of the preseason, Davis is set to make his season debut on Sunday as the Jets take on the Cincinnati Bengals.
What will Davis bring to the table for the Jets? Let’s refresh our minds on what the former first-round pick offers.
Production leap in 2020 with a smaller role
Davis was a full-time starter for the Lions throughout his first three seasons. He started all 41 of his appearances from 2017-19 and averaged 60.0 snaps per game, but struggled mightily in that featured role.
In 2020, Detroit minimized Davis’ role and he began to perform more efficiently. Starting only four of his 14 games, Davis averaged 23.5 snaps per game and played 34% of the Lions’ defensive snaps on average.
Davis saw enormous improvements in coverage:
- Career-low 7.9 yards per reception allowed
- Career-low 5.4 yards after the catch per reception allowed
- Career-high 72.1 coverage grade at Pro Football Focus
|Stat||2020 Davis||2020 LB League Average||2017-19 Davis|
|Yards per cover snap allowed||0.84||0.96||1.03|
|Yards per target allowed||7.4||7.3||8.7|
|Yards per reception allowed||7.9||10.9||9.4|
|YAC per reception allowed||5.4||6.4||5.8|
|PFF Coverage Grade||72.1||58.4||46.8|
Davis finished the 2020 season with an overall PFF grade of 62.2 that was a career-high and ranked at the 70th percentile among qualified linebackers. He committed zero penalties after being called for at least four in each of his first three seasons.
Poor performance as a starter
As previously mentioned, Davis was not a highly regarded player when he was handling full-time snaps during his first three seasons with Detroit. These are some of his numbers and ranks among qualified linebackers from 2017-19:
- 2019: 38.6 overall PFF grade (63rd of 63), 15.4 yards per reception allowed (worst)
- 2018: 51.0 overall PFF grade (54th of 61), 17 missed tackles (6th-most)
- 2017: 52.8 overall PFF grade (55th of 65), 19 missed tackles (3rd-most)
While PFF grades can miss the mark at times (just take a look at C.J. Mosley’s brutal grade this year), Davis’ raw statistics back up his poor grades. He consistently missed a boatload of tackles, committed too many penalties, and was scorched in coverage. Here are some of his overall numbers over 41 games from 2017-19:
- 30.4 yards per game allowed in coverage
- 46 missed tackles
- 13 penalties
The Jets will be asking Davis to step back into an every-down role. Can he extrapolate the progress he made in 2020 to a starter’s diet of snaps or will moving back into the starting lineup result in a regression to his early-career woes?
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Davis needs to improve as a tackler.
The Florida product has missed 56 tackles in his career while making 301 (counting out special teams).
That gives Davis a missed tackle rate of 15.7%, which is well above the 2020 positional average of 10.7%.
This is one area where Davis did not improve in 2020. He missed 10 tackles and made 42 tackles for a miss rate of 19.2% that was third-worst among qualified linebackers.
Missed tackles have been a massive problem for the Jets’ linebackers outside of C.J. Mosley this year. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Blake Cashman, Del’Shawn Phillips, Jamien Sherwood, and Quincy Williams have combined for a missed tackle rate of 18.2%. If posted by an individual player, that rate would have ranked fifth-worst among qualified linebackers in 2020.
The Jets can count on Davis to produce as a blitzer. He has been great in this area throughout his entire career, even during his first three seasons when he struggled in other areas.
Davis has 68 career pressures on 301 pass-rush snaps. That gives him a pressure rate of 22.6% that is significantly higher than the 2020 linebacker average of 14.3%.
Only Kyle Van Noy, Demario Davis, Dont’a Hightower, and Vince Williams had more pressures than Davis among linebackers from 2017-20. Davis’ 22.6% pressure rate ranked sixth-best over that span among linebackers with at least 100 pass-rush snaps.
Blitzing is one area where the Jets have not struggled at the linebacker position from an efficiency standpoint. Their linebackers have posted a pressure rate of 21.0% this season.
However, the Jets do not blitz their linebackers often, as all of the linebackers on the roster have combined for only 9.5 pass-rush snaps per game. Davis averaged 6.2 pass-rush snaps per game by himself during his three seasons as a starter, including a 2018 season where he averaged 7.9. Davis posted six sacks and 10 quarterback hits that year.
Perhaps the return of Davis will lead to an increase in blitzes from the linebacker position.
Related Article: Film breakdown: Jarrad Davis is one heck of a blitzer
Davis has been substantially better in man coverage than in zone coverage.
Check out the disparity between his career man-coverage and zone-coverage numbers:
- Man coverage: 0.44 yards per cover snap, 6.1 yards per target, 83.7 passer rating
- Zone coverage: 1.53 yards per cover snap, 9.7 yards per target, 116.4 passer rating
Davis’ man coverage spurred his 2020 production leap. He allowed a career-low 0.13 yards per cover snap in man coverage.
Davis hits hard and has good range but his proneness to missed tackles and his inconsistency with reading plays leaves him with a composite career run-defense grade of 50.5 at PFF. The 2020 league average for linebackers was 55.3.
Just as with his overall tackling, Davis did not improve in this area in 2020 as he posted a measly run-defense grade of 50.8. He had 29 tackles and six missed tackles against the run for a brutal miss rate of 17.1%.
Considering his lack of progress as a run defender and overall tackler in 2020, it was truly Davis’ improved coverage that had him looking like a better player.
The Jets have been solid at punching the football loose this season, recording five forced fumbles. Quincy Williams is responsible for three of those.
Davis should help the Jets stay strong in this area. The Kingland, Ga. native has forced a fumble on seven of his 305 career tackles, a rate of 2.3%. That is the third-best rate among linebackers who recorded at least 300 tackles from 2017-20. Only Jamie Collins (2.5%) and Lavonte David (2.6%) had Davis beat.
Davis offers significantly more beef than the tiny linebackers the Jets have been rolling with. He checks in at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds. Quincy Williams stands at 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds while Jamien Sherwood measures at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds. Hamsah Nasirildeen stands at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds.
This bump in size should help the Jets tremendously, as those small linebackers have been bullied in the run game all year.
Intriguingly, Davis offers a 4.62 time in the forty-yard dash, a 2.64 time in the 20-yard split, and a 38.5-inch vertical at his 2017 pro day, so he does not sacrifice any athleticism for his larger frame.
As a gifted physical specimen who blends size, power, and speed like few other linebackers in the league, Davis could still have untapped upside even at 26 years old (27 in a few weeks). The possibility of Davis having more room to grow becomes especially convincing when considering the progress he showcased in 2020.
Davis needs to round out the fundamental aspects of his game to become a truly solid player in a full-time role, but the potential for him to thrive in this defense is there. The Jets put Quincy Williams in a position to consistently flash big-time playmaking ability with his excellent athleticism, but he erased the impact of those plays with his constant over-pursuit and recklessness.
If Davis can make the plays that Williams was making while removing most of the mistakes, he can shine next to Mosley and form an imposing linebacker duo.