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Davis looks to be a smart, fast and physical player

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell often uses the expression that he's on the lookout for "smart, fast and physical" football players.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis, Detroit's first-round draft pick, appears at first glance to check off all three boxes.

Anyone who listened to Davis' post-selection conference call, or his introductory press conference in Allen Park the next day, couldn't help but walk away impressed with his character, leadership and football savvy.

At his pro day at the University of Florida back in March, Davis ran the 40 in 4.56-seconds. He also produced a 38.5-inch vertical and 10'9'' broad jump, two very good measurables of a player's explosiveness.

Davis' speed stands out on film as well, but so does his physicality, something he says was developed at an early age.

"It's an experience that's unmatched, to be honest with you," Davis said. "I love hitting. I love striking people. I love just exerting force on another person.

"You can't do it in any other way. You can't do it on the street. You can't do it at anybody's house. You have to do it within the lines, within the paint. It's something that I chase while I play the game. I need that."

Davis made 158 tackles in 23 games playing the MIKE (middle) linebacker in Florida's defense the last two seasons. He also recorded 17 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries over that span.

Caldwell used the term "knock-back tackler" in describing Davis' physical brand of football.

After selecting him 21st overall, Lions general manager Bob Quinn called Davis a passionate player.

"He's got very good playing speed, very good tackler, good blitzer, good coverage player," Quinn said. "This guy's a really well-rounded linebacker. As a freshman he was a special teams player of the year for Florida when he was a backup linebacker, so he's got four-down value. I think he's a really well-rounded guy that has position versatility."

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock labelled Davis as the ideal inside linebacker in today's NFL, because of his blend of toughness and speed.

"He's got the physical traits," Mayock said. "He's a tough kid. He's today's NFL inside linebacker. He can run. He can stay in the game on third down, which I think is critical in Detroit."

Even Davis' NFL Draft profile highlighted his physical style.

"Can be rude to company," it read. "Erupts from coiled hips with a jarring pop under the pads of oncoming blockers."

One of the best draft analysts in the business, NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, also touted Davis' physicality when breaking his film down for following the draft.

"His physical toughness in the box, his ability to play inside out with plus athleticism and range are really strong," Cosell said. "But there's a physicality and toughness to his game that stands out all the time. He plays downhill with aggression. He blew up Kentucky center Jon Toth a number of times. He blew up Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson when they were working to the second level to block."

Detroit's defense ranked 18th overall against the run last season, 26th in the percentage of opponent runs gaining at least four yards, and 25th when it came to generating negative rushing plays. It could use a little more toughness and physicality.

It won't be known for certain how Davis' game transitions to this level until the pads come on in August and the hitting starts. But if Quinn, Caldwell and most draft analysts that studied Davis are right, the middle of Detroit's defense might be getting just what it needs.

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