Allen Park – It was far from an ideal rookie season for Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, but he’s banking on a year of on-the-job learning and a strong finish in 2017 to lead to positive results in his second season.
Drafted in the first round, Davis was tasked with the difficult challenge of starting at middle linebacker from Day 1. He played every defensive snap in six of his first seven games — only missing time in the outlier due to a concussion – but had noticeable struggles in coverage and with his pursuit angles, leading to being one of the league leaders in missed tackles.
By mid-season, the coaching staff reduced the rookie’s role, pulling Davis off the field on obvious passing downs. The idea was to narrow his focus on Sundays and work on his coverage skills on the practice field, building him back up to the complete linebacker he needed to be.
If Week 17 was any proof, the development plan put in place was a success. Davis played every snap in season-ending win over the Green Bay Packers and delivered his finest performance. He recorded a season-high 12 tackles (without a miss) and forced a fumble.
The strong close to the year buoyed Davis’ spirits heading into his first offseason.
“You can't really dwell on the bad things,” Davis said. “You just have to go out, you have to play and you have to have fun. I was able to go out and say that those last three games. … I just went back to being a kid again. Just going out there and letting loose, not really worrying about anything, not really stressing about messing up, not really trying to say, ‘I've gotta do this, I've gotta do this.’ Just going out there and letting things happen.”
Even though he knows he’ll be learning another new defensive scheme this offseason, with Matt Patricia at the helm, along with a new defensive coordinator and position coach, Davis said he feels more mentally relaxed coming into his second season.
While the playbook might be different, the young linebacker is confident the transition will be made smoother because of the study habits he refined during his rookie campaign.
The biggest key to Davis’ improvement will certainly be the strides he can make in pass coverage.
“Definitely a big thing for me,” he said. “It's something that really stood out a lot last year, and something that I have to shore up. Playing defense, you have to be able to defend the pass. You can stop the run all day, but if you can't stop the pass then it's a guessing game and then you're playing on your heels.”
Davis believes new position coach Al Golden, who moves to the defensive side of the ball after working with the tight ends last year, could play a key role.
“Playing tight end in his playing days and coaching TEs last year, it's going to help us out a lot in that pass coverage area,” Davis said. “He's going to be able to tell us what the tight ends are thinking, why they're trying to run these routes, what they're trying to do on certain downs and distances, really help us out a lot in those specific areas, knowing and anticipating what's coming.”
LIONS SIGN DB
The Lions announced the signing of cornerback Raysean Pringle.
An undrafted free agent out of Southern Utah, Pringle played running back and receiver in college — rushing for 1,130 yards and 14 touchdowns on 228 carries and catching 26 passes for 329 yards in 33 games — before converting to cornerback as a rookie last season.
Pringle had been an all-league player on both offense and defense in high school.
After flashing some serious speed at his pro day, running a 4.42 40-yard dash, Pringle spent portions of last season on Jacksonville and Green Bay’s practice squads.
Pringle is the third player from Southern Utah to spend time on the Lions’ roster in recent years, joining safety Miles Killebrew and cornerback Josh Thornton.