Lions rookie Davis cramming to be linebacking force

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Linebacker Jarrad Davis, a rookie from Florida, heads out onto the field Monday.


Allen Park — It’s the second day of training camp, but Jarrad Davis is already thinking about wins and losses. 

The Detroit Lions rookie has an inconceivable amount on his plate. He’s already penciled in as the team’s starting middle linebacker — the quarterback of the defense. There he’ll wear the helmet with the headset, he’ll relay the play calls from the sideline and he’ll be expected to get his teammates lined up correctly. 

And of course, he’ll be counted on to produce. The Lions spent a first-round pick on the Florida standout anticipating he’d help improve a position group that struggled in 2016.

That’s a lot of responsibility for a first-year player on a team that qualified for the postseason last season, but Davis is quickly proving himself worthy of the faith the front office, coaching staff and teammates are putting in him. 

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“He’s an unusual guy because of the fact that he works extremely hard,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s only been in this thing a matter of a few months now, but just anticipate and expect to see him to continue to grow. I think he gives respect, so they give it back and I think that’s an important trait as well.”

Davis’ respect is conveyed through his no-nonsense approach and his willingness to lean on the team’s veteran leaders when he doesn’t know something. 

“He’s all football,” Quin said. “He’s very serious, takes his job very seriously. He wants to be great. You can see it, you can tell by the way he asks questions, the way he works, the way he studies. He’s going to be a great addition for us. 

“I’m excited to play alongside him, watch him grow and I’m also excited to help him in any way that I can.”

Tahir Whitehead, the man Davis is replacing at middle linebacker and as the defensive signal-caller tried to downplay his role in Davis’ development. He called the rookie “a natural” who has had no issues relaying the calls to the defense. 

Whitehead said he’s rarely needed to chime in with advice, but Davis views it differently. He sees the vast amounts of knowledge Whitehead has accumulated during his five years with the Lions and three years in the current defensive scheme. 

The rookie has been like a sponge, eager to soak in every nugget of information Whitehead and the other veterans are willing to share. It’s in those details Davis sees the key to individual and team success.

“There are so many things that it seems like you can overlook a couple things, but really, you can’t,” Davis said. “You can’t overlook anything. Everything that comes your way, everything that’s around you, everything that happens on the field, in the meeting room, it’s for a reason.

“Any and every moment in the building I’m trying to pick (Whitehead’s) brain, everybody else’s brain who is around me who has been here, has been on this level for so long,” Davis said. “I’m really trying to learn as much as I can to really be able to dissect the game and not only put myself, but the defense into the best position to win games.”

The Lions won nine games last season with an injury-riddled linebacking corps that struggled in coverage and rarely came up with big plays. The performance of the group was also a significant factor in the team’s struggles on third down, where they allowed opponents to convert on 46.3 percent of the time. Only Washington was worse. 

The Lions retooled the entire unit this offseason, releasing DeAndre Levy, signing Paul Worrilow and drafting Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. But the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Davis is viewed as the linchpin to the potentially quick turnaround. 

The season doesn’t start for another five weeks. That’s a lot of time for Davis to continue to hone his craft and prepare for the challenge ahead. He doesn’t intend to waste a moment from here until then, when the snaps count. 

“We try to put ourselves in situations where we’re getting better each and every day,” he said. “Every rep I get out here, I’m trying to own it and live in the moment and not leave anything to chance.”

The Lions open the preseason Sunday, Aug. 13 against the Indianapolis Colts.

Twitter: @justin_rogers