After being selected in the first round (21st overall) in last year's NFL Draft, Jarrad Davis stepped right into a starting role at the MIKE linebacker spot in Detroit calling the defense. It was a role that requires instant leadership. Davis provided it naturally, even as a first-year player.
Veteran safety Glover Quin, the unequivocal leader on Detroit's defense, commented last season that Davis is the kind of player who is just a natural leader.
Davis' newest teammate, fellow linebacker Devon Kennard, has already seen that side of Davis' character.
"Oh JD, he's a great leader," Kennard said when asked about his first impressions of Davis. "He works hard. I think he has a very bright future and he's a great teammate. It's been a pleasure getting to know my teammates so far."
Davis and Kennard are expected to play significant roles in the Lions' defense this season. Head coach Matt Patricia places a lot of emphasis on the linebacker position as it pertains to the overall success of the defense. The linebackers run the show, so the quicker Davis and Kennard get on the same page and learn how each other's game complements their own, the quicker Detroit's defense can start to make strides.
"He's an awesome guy, he's great," Davis said of Kennard at Wednesday's Taste of the Lions event at Ford Field. "From the first day he stepped in the building and I got to meet him, you can just feel the energy he comes to work with every single day."
Davis entered the NFL mature beyond his years, which is one of the things that attracted the Lions to him in the draft process, but he can still learn some things from a veteran player like Kennard, which is something he says he started the first day Kennard got to Detroit.
"Just the way he carries himself," Davis said. "It's awesome to have a teammate like that. He comes in and sets the bar high and I try to reset it, so we can each keep going and reach new levels every single day."
Kennard joined the Lions, in part, because of the kind of defense Patricia plans to play, and the potential for a player with his skill set to play multiple roles within it.
"I've watched Matty P's defense for a long time and it's one that looks like a lot of fun on film and now I'm starting to learn it and it's not disappointing so far," Kennard said. "And I think it was a great opportunity for me."
It's also a great opportunity for him to play alongside a good up-and-coming youngster in Davis, a player Kennard can help mold.
For Davis, it's an opportunity to play alongside a veteran that's had success early in his career wearing a lot of different hats and being in a lot of different situations.
Davis and Kennard are important cogs in Detroit's defense, and it appears they've quickly formed a bond that should benefit both them and the Lions as they continue to learn and implement the new defense.