Detroit Lions: NFL analyst predicts Jarrad Davis to be top-five linebacker

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

It’s a make or break season for Detroit Lions middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, and one analyst expects the former first-round pick to excel in 2020.

The Detroit Lions added some depth at the middle linebacker position this offseason adding former Kansas City Cheif Reggie Ragland.  Ragland 26-years old has made 32 starts in three seasons with the Cheifs but has appeared in 42 contests overall.  Perhaps the addition of Ragland will serve as calculated motivation for Jarrad Davis.

One NFL Analyst believes Davis can become a top-five linebacker in 2020.  I think that’s a stretch, but I do like to see some positive opinions surrounding the Detroit Lions from a member of the national media.  It’s usually quite the opposite when it comes to the Lions.

Andy Benoit of Sports Illustrated had this to say about Davis;

Davis entered the league about ten pounds lighter than he currently is now.  His athleticism had never been questioned.  He’s a robust and agile linebacker but lacks fundamentals. But top-five linebacker?  Maybe on his team, but not in the league.

When I think of Jarrad Davis, the first thing that comes to my mind is his inability to complete a form tackle successfully.  Maybe Andy feels that if Davis can maintain a weight of 245-pounds ball carriers and quarterbacks won’t slip his tackles as easily but I can’t get behind that theory until I see a vast improvement on the football field.  Adding six or seven pounds suddenly won’t allow the linebacker to wrap up the ball carrier more frequently.

I can’t help but recall the speedy linebacker busting through the line of scrimmage, creating plenty of pressure on either the ball carrier or quarterback but miss a tackle in the backfield.  At times it felt like Davis would just bounce off as he’d be unable to wrap up his target.

The second issue that’s hampered Davis’ success at the professional level is his inability to cover on passing downs.  Davis recorded an atrocious 32.6 coverage rating last season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).  In 2019, Davis allowed 26 receptions on 34 targets yielding a 76.5% completion rate and a whopping 15.3 yards per reception.

That’s the bad, here’s the bright side.  I did enjoy watching Davis rush the passer, although converting on even half of those ten missed tackles would have made all the difference.  According to PFF, Davis earned a respectable 72.8 pass-rush grade on just 66 pass-rush snaps.

Davis played 654 total snaps in 2019, 252 of which came defending the run, 336 were in coverage, and 66 were on pass-rushing situations.  The Lions added Jamie Collins in free agency; he’s considered the best coverage linebacker in football. It’s an area the Lions identified as a need and filled it.  With the addition of Ragland, it may free up Davis to play more as a pass-rusher where he seems to excel in 2020.

The Buffalo Bills originally drafted Ragland in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the 41st overall pick.  Ragland never made an appearance with the Bills as he missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.  The Bills traded Ragland for a fourth-round pick.

Ragland’s compiled 160 tackles, ten tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, and one interception during those three years.  Last season Ragland played in 14 games for the Super Bowl Champion Cheifs, making 30 tackles and two sacks.

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The Detroit Lions will likely feature Ragland and Davis together when going with their 3-4 set. Still, I’d like Matt Patricia to explore all options and maybe use second-year man, Jahlani Tavai, with Ragland inside and use Davis and Collins on the edge.  It’s a defense with possibilities, and options are something that’s been limited in the past.