Jarrad Davis hasn’t been a bust as much as a puzzle.
On one hand, he is athletic and willing - a decidedly hard worker.
On the other, Davis has usually been ineffective, which has been a source of consternation since the Lions made him their first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. It’s been revealed in his often shockingly low ratings among inside linebackers by Pro Football Focus.
The mixed message about Davis has been enhanced by Lions’ leadership.
They seemingly showed a level of confidence in Davis by bypassing an extraordinary linebacker, Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, for Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah at third overall in the most recent draft.
Yet, they didn’t pick up the option on Davis’ contract for 2021, and signed veteran linebackers Elijah Lee and Reggie Ragland, after extending Christian Jones during the 2019 season.
Davis is a strong open-field tackler, but he struggles shedding blocks. Another obvious flaw has been pass coverage. Subsequently, he has not thrived in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme under two head coaches since arriving in Detroit from the University of Florida.
The talent is there. It just seems like it has not been brought out by his coaching staffs, first under Jim Caldwell and now Matt Patricia.
But is it really the coaching or the player?
Now, it's understood linebacker play in the NFL isn’t simply based on raw measurables or work ethic. It’s a lot about instinct, the so-called nose for the football.
The best inside linebackers are able to maneuver into tight spaces and fill gaps with leverage. Genuine three-down linebackers recognize pass plays rapidly. Davis tends to have a delayed reaction on masked plays.
Not everything can be taught.
Davis, on a video meeting with the media Thursday, didn’t indicate disappointment with the Lions’ decision not to pick up his contract option beyond 2020.
“It’s one of those things that could be detrimental or a positive,” Davis said.
True enough. If Davis were to leave the Lions after 2020, he’d be just 26 years old and in his prime.
There is plenty of time for Davis.
But it may be running out for the Lions to make the most of his ability.