All eyes on Lions' Davis as rookie minicamp starts
Allen Park – Football is back! Well, kind of.
The Detroit Lions’ draft class – along with more than two dozen undrafted free agents, tryouts and eligible veterans – took the field on Friday to kick off the team’s three-day rookie minicamp.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to have new guys step into the building, it’s always a lot of fun,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Some have a little bit of apprehension, nervous. They understand it’s a great opportunity for them. Obviously, we’ve only been here with them a short period now, but they’re excited. It’s a serious group, a focused group. We’re excited to get our hands on them and get them out there on the field as well.”
As is typical with the event, the spotlight was on the team’s first-round draft pick.
In the brief 10-minute portion of practice open to the media, linebacker Jarrad Davis sported one of the team’s new practice uniforms, a simple white jersey with a blue No. 40 in the team’s rebranded font. The only marking on his silver, logo-less helmet was a sticker with his last name across the forehead.
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Along with fellow rookie and fourth-round pick Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Davis ran through a variety of linebacker drills under the watchful eye of position coach Bill Sheridan.
Asked what he liked about the addition of Davis, Caldwell opted to stand by Bob Quinn’s assessment from earlier this month, when the general manager praised the former Florida standout’s passion, playing speed, tackling ability and coverage skills shortly after selecting him No. 21 overall.
Davis offers positional flexibility, capable of playing inside and outside, but is expected to work primarily as a middle linebacker to start. Often considered the quarterback of the defense, Caldwell said there will be unique challenges for Davis to learn his responsibilities, but contested the idea it would be any more difficult than another position.
“There’s no easy spot on the entire team when you look at it because of the fact that it’s so competitive,” Caldwell said. “You look at them all differently. If an individual has the capacity to learn and learn quickly, he’ll be fine no matter where he plays.”
If Davis can pick up his responsibilities quickly – and given his resume and reputation, there’s little to suggest he won’t – he could force the team to shift a returning veteran to another position, much like 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker did last season.
Decker’s ability to handle left tackle out the gate allowed the Lions to move Riley Reiff from that spot to right tackle last season, solidifying both spots in the process. If Davis earns a starting role as the middle linebacker, the Lions would have to find a new home for Tahir Whitehead, who held that job last year.
Understandably, Caldwell wasn’t interested in looking that far ahead.
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“Obviously, we’re not talking about depth charts or anything of that nature, who’s going to lineup where and all that kind of stuff at this point until we get them all together,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got a lot of time, yet. We’ll see what’s happening, but I would anticipate that he’s (Whitehead) going to be a factor, just like he has been for every other year since we’ve been here at least.”
Through this weekend, the Lions’ coaching staff will push the mental limits of Davis and his fellow rookies. There’s no time to waste. The group will be joined by the veterans next week as the offseason shifts to a higher gear.
“We have a lot of information they have to absorb in a very short period of time, and obviously, the football portion of it is the most important portion of it,” Caldwell said. “Yet, how to function within the building is equally as important. We do a lot of educating in a very short period of time and we try to just give them as much information as we possibly can when they arrive and that’ll take us through the weekend.”