Allen Park — Heading into the bye week, a lot is going right for the Detroit Lions. The team has gone toe-to-toe with three consecutive Super Bowl contenders, winning two of those games, the new offense is coming along behind a surprisingly aggressive downfield passing attack, and the defense is limiting the damage done by opposing quarterbacks.
But things aren't going particularly well for Jarrad Davis. At least not according to Pro Football Focus, an analytics site that evaluates every play of every game. According to site, Davis has been the worst off-ball linebacker in football. At least among those seeing extensive playing time.
Of the 70 linebackers who have played at least 100 snaps, Davis is last, according to their grading system. He has well-below-average marks in coverage, run defense and tackling.
Not surprisingly, Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni doesn't agree with the external assessment of his starting middle linebacker.
"I'd be careful there," Pasqualoni said. "He's the quarterback of the defense. He does an awful lot for us. He really, really does. Love him. Me, personally, love him. No issues.
"I think he's doing fine," Pasqualoni continued. "I think he's really into the game. We've played some good teams. We've played some really mobile quarterbacks, all that stuff. We're asking him to do a lot and he's doing everything he can do. I think we're happy with him."
The danger with Pro Football Focus, as with any outside analysis, is it doesn't know the play calls or the player responsibilities. They do their best to combat it by having a staff filled with former scouts and coaches, rubber-stamping their evaluations. Additionally, they're respected enough to have provided services to all 32 NFL teams, as well as many college programs. That gives their work credibility.
As for Davis, he only recently returned to the lineup, missing a month of action with a high ankle sprain. Linebacker coach Al Golden suggested Davis is still working off some rust.
"It’s hard to come back after you’ve been sitting for four weeks," Golden said. "I think he’s done a good job, he’s in a good place. I think this is good, the break comes at a good time for him. He plays two (games), kind of gets back into playing shape, if you will. He gets a chance to recharge here and move forward without any ailment. I think that part of it’s going to be big for him."
Pro Football Focus has never been fond of Davis' game. A year ago, among linebackers who played at least 400 snaps, PFF ranked him 64th of 72 players, about the same as his rookie year, when he was 61st out of 74.