Bob Quinn made it a priority this offseason to revamp his linebacking corps with bigger players to better fit new head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive schemes.
Quinn signed veterans Devon Kennard, Christian Jones and Jonathan Freeny in free agency to bring a bigger pop to that group.
Those players are expected to complement what the Lions already have at the position. Key among those returning players is last year’s first-round pick Jarrad Davis.
“Bob did a great job last year with Jarrad Davis,” Patricia recently said. “Really having someone that’s an outstanding player, leader, very hard-working type of guy that can carry a lot as far as that’s concerned.”
Davis came in as a rookie after being selected No. 21 overall and started at the MIKE from Day 1. He led all rookies and first-year players with 96 tackles, despite missing two games due to injury. He also chipped in two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
“I’d say the last four to five games of the season you really saw Jarrad Davis at his fullest,” Quinn said. “Stepping in as a rookie middle linebacker, signal caller, he had a lot of things on his plate early in the season.
“He fought through an injury and missed a couple games with a neck and then came back we kind of took a few things off his plate to get him kind of back running again and I was really happy with how the year ended up.”
For a brief stint after Davis returned from the neck injury, the Lions limited his role some on passing downs, an area where Davis struggled a bit last season. It’s an area Davis no-doubt focused on improving this offseason, and should get better at.
Quinn told season tickets holders at a member summit at Ford Field Monday night that he ran into Davis at the practice facility eating dinner before he headed over to the stadium. The players were done with their first day back in the building for the offseason training program at 12:30. Davis was still in the building for dinner.
“This guy loves football,” Quinn said. “It was funny, we were down on the scouting trail and numerous people and numerous coaches kind of pulled us aside and were just kind of raving about him a year removed from when we took him.”
Patricia coached the linebackers in New England for five seasons before eventually taking over as defensive coordinator. He has a passion for the position, and knows its importance to the overall success on defense. He said he’ll always pay close attention to what the linebackers are doing, even as head coach. With the kind of defensive teacher Patricia has proven to be over the years in New England, that should be a terrific benefit to a young player like Davis.
Davis’ 2017 campaign was filled with ups and downs as all rookie seasons are. Patricia’s new schemes on defense are expected to be a very good fit for his skillset, and expectations should be high for Davis to have a very good second season in 2018.
“Jarrad can play in any scheme,” Quinn said. “But I think his skillset is really going to be exemplified with what we’re doing now.”