Detroit — Lions rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis is used to speedy receivers, having played in the Southeastern Conference at Florida.
As the projected starting middle linebacker, he’s going to have his growing pains and games where things just don’t go his way.
Friday was one of those games.
In the Lions’ 30-28 preseason loss to the New England Patriots, the Lions’ first-round pick got an indication of how much he’ll need to pick up in his rookie season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady picked Davis and the defense apart for 24 points in the first quarter.
Going from the New York Jets last week to Brady this week was a steep learning curve for Davis — and the first-quarter onslaught left his head spinning a little.
“Definitely. It’s the (hardest) situation I’ve been in in a long time,” Davis said. “As a first-year guy, I had to learn that I have to bounce back, put that on the backburner and go get the next play and make something happen.
“It was a challenge at first, really tough. It showed that this is what we have to do, how we have to work, how we have to prepare now.”
The Patriots took advantage of Davis in the middle, putting receiver Julian Edelman in crossing routes and creating a speed mismatch that ended in a 23-yard pass on the third play of the game. Edelman tallied three catches for 52 yards in the quarter, most of which came in the middle of the field.
It’s not a concern for Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who saw it as a learning experience and an opportunity for Davis to learn on the fly.
“I haven’t looked at it in detail, but I saw a couple of them — probably the same things you guys saw — that were isolated on the inside,” Caldwell said. “A guy beat him across his face, those kinds of things. Those are the things that you learn; that’s what preseason is for.”
Davis finished with eight tackles but his baptism by fire in dealing with Brady and the first-team offense was an eye-opener for the starting defense. Davis said he knew what to expect from Brady and Edelman, but executing on defense was difficult at full speed.
The Super Bowl champs’ ability to produce consistently on offense was the difference early, with three touchdowns on their first three possessions.
“The biggest thing is their level of execution; they’re not going to leave anything to chance,” Davis said. “They’re not going to make a mistake — they’re going to let you make a mistake and then they’re going to exploit you on the mistake.”
Davis found Brady after the game and had a quick conversation, in which he showed respect and thanked Brady for all he’s done in his career. In previous years, it was just as a fan and a young player learning from his professional approach and execution.
That took on a different dimension Friday night, when Davis got to see it up close and personal, often coming out on the bad end.
“I just told him I appreciate him for what he does for the game and what he has done in his whole career,” Davis said. “For a young guy, there’s nobody better that you can look at; he sets the precedent. He shows you exactly how it needs to be done each and every week.
“Just watching the film and watching how they play games, you can tell this game means something to them; they take ownership of what they do. When they come out on the field, they’re going to make sure they let you know that this is what they do.”
It’s good film for Davis to study and to help him improve on his game as well. He said one of the biggest takeaways is learning how to play beyond fatigue and to still be able to execute just as if the game had begun.
And Caldwell saw the same potential for steps forward.
“Look, I don’t think anybody has said he’s going to be absolutely perfect. He’s going to learn along the way,” Caldwell said. “That’s the thing guys have to be able learn to deal with — guys that have skills, speed, quickness, size, coming at you non-stop. It takes a little adjusting.
“I think we had some young guys that learned a few lessons and we’ll get better for it.”