Lions' Jarrad Davis has backer in Bucs' Bruce Arians: 'He's a load, man'
Allen Park — Before every Detroit Lions game, the opposing coach does a conference call with the local media. Typically, these fall short of providing much in terms of enlightening insight, filled far more with unending praise for the opposition and generic responses to questions about their own team and the upcoming matchup.
Wednesday's session with Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians was no exception, but a portion of his praise for the 3-9-1 Lions and the team's 29th ranked defense stood out as over the top.
Detroit's defense, despite its season-long struggles, isn't devoid of talent. Defensive end Trey Flowers has been excellent, and Darius Slay, despite some individual hiccups, remains one of the league's most-respected cornerbacks.
So when Arians was asked for what stands out about the unit on film, it wasn't surprising he mentioned both of those players. But the first player the coach mentioned, without directly saying his name, was linebacker Jarrad Davis.
"They have one of the best middle linebackers in the business," Arians said.
Asked to clarify the comment, Arians explained what he specifically likes about Davis.
"He’s a load, man," Arians said. "He can run, he can cover, and when he blitzes, he is a hell of a challenge for our offensive line and our running back.”
There's no question Davis is an exceptional blitzer, having sustained success in that situational role over the past two seasons. You could go as far as to say his skill is one of the best in the business.
But the film and statistics don't favor his performance in any other area this season.
Appearing in 11 of the team's 13 games, Davis has missed 10 tackles, whiffing on 14 percent on his opportunities. And in coverage, he's allowed 77.8 percent of the passes to his assignment to be completed, with an average gain of 12.4 yards. Both those metrics are significantly worse than a year ago.
Still, Arians claimed he didn't see Davis' performance in this area as a deficiency.
“They mix it up as far as man and zone," Arians said. "If it’s man, he’s usually blitzing. Yeah, I don’t see him being as a negative in the passing game as far as them. I mean, he’s fine.”
Davis, a first-round pick in 2017, has seen his role slightly reduced in his third season. After playing nearly every snap a year ago, he's been rotated off for full series in recent weeks.
In last week's lost to Minnesota, Davis missed a chunk of time after suffering an ankle injury in the first half. Despite the Vikings running 39 times, including the majority of their second-half plays, Davis failed recorded zero tackles in 36 snaps. It was the first time in his career he didn't register a single stop.