The Detroit Lions threw a lot at Jarrad Davis last year in his rookie season knowing full well the strong, rangy and athletic linebacker had the disposition and football IQ to handle it.
Davis, the 21st overall pick last season by the Lions, started at the MIKE linebacker spot from the first day he got to Allen Park. He called the defense in his first season, and ran the show in the middle.
Like any rookie, Davis had his ups and down. He led all rookie and first-year linebackers with 96 tackles, but he also missed two games with a neck injury and had a stretch in the middle of the year where he was replaced in the nickel defense by veteran Tahir Whitehead because of some struggles he was having in coverage.
To Davis' credit, he earned his spot back in the nickel by the end of the season, and even recorded an interception in Detroit's Week 17 win over Green Bay.
Heading into his second season, the Lions are again throwing a lot at Davis with a new scheme, new terminology and greater expectations now being a veteran.
Detroit's new defensive coaches have been impressed with the way Davis has handled it all so far this offseason.
"Jarrad is terrific," defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. "Fits the job description of the MIKE linebacker, who essentially calls the defense, and has a lot to do with adjustments and directing his teammates."
That part of the job requires a lot of extra work on Davis' part to know all the calls and the adjustments to every call. Pasqualoni says Davis has put in whatever work is necessary to get the job done.
"When the signal caller messes a call up, he's got to be able to straighten it out," Pasqualoni said. "So, he's got to learn the calls, and the flow of the words and all that stuff. He's working extremely, extremely hard. He's very tough on himself. He demands a great deal of himself every single day.
"He's the same guy every day. He's focused. He's high intensity. He's consistent. He's extremely dependable and he's a young player who's really learning what it's all about to be the MIKE backer in the National Football League. He's been very good."
Linebackers coach Al Golden says this is a linebacker-friendly scheme Matt Patricia and Pasqualoni are running, but there are also a lot of nuances to it, and standards are high for the veteran position group.
"I think he's doing a great job," Golden said of Davis. "I mean, it's not easy. We're asking a lot of him. He's coming prepared every day, working hard and holds himself to a high standard and is accountable. I think that's the beauty of that kid. He's fun to coach."
Golden, who coached the tight ends for the Lions under Jim Caldwell last season, brings a bit of a unique perspective to Davis and the other linebackers in the room because of his past coaching experiences.
He's been a head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and tight ends coach.
Davis struggled some with the coverage side of playing the position as a rookie. Opponents completed 82 percent of their passes throwing his way for a couple scores and a 106.5 passer rating, per Pro Football Focus statistics. It's an area Davis has focused on improving this offseason, and Golden might give him a leg up in that effort.
"Hopefully, I'm bringing knowledge of how offenses want to attack by formation structure or backfield set or whatever the case may be: Red zone, no red, goal line, third down," Golden said.
"From that standpoint, we're trying to get him to play faster. Maybe improve his anticipatory methods, if you will, and just be able to read things quicker. Try to see ahead of time what the issues are going to be and help him with his problem solving. Hopefully, I'm bringing that to the linebacker room this year."
There's a natural improvement players make from their first to second seasons because of the comfort level they develop in having a year under their belt. The game slows down a little for them.
For a player with Davis' skill set, work method and intelligence, that leap in production and comfort level should be very noticeable.
"I think we're starting to see it now," Golden said. "I think he (Davis) is playing faster, I think he's more comfortable and I can see it in his body language and the energy he's bringing, especially pre-snap. No question about it."