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NOTEBOOK: Davis' debut 'outstanding for a young guy'

Jarrad Davis became the first rookie to start at middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions in a season opener since Chris Spielman back in 1988.

He was the first Lions rookie linebacker to start at any linebacker position in the opener since Ernie Sims (OLB) in 2006.

So how was his debut?

"I thought it was outstanding for a young guy," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Friday. "Really flew around. Physical. Really, he makes a difference in our defense in terms of our temperament and how we go, and that's something that your middle linebacker should do because he's really at the end of the day he's the quarterback of your defense."

Davis led the team with nine tackles (all solo) and was one of the reasons why Arizona managed just 45 yards rushing as a team. He also netted a fumble recovery to become the first Lions rookie to recover a fumble in the season opener since safety Louis Delmas (1) at New Orleans in 2009.

"We have a pretty multiple defense and for him to be able to manage it the way he does, I think tells you something about his work ethic," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Davis. "But then also he's around the ball a lot. He made a lot of plays. Did a nice job overall for a lot of stuff that he had to handle. He didn't play perfectly. He had a couple tough situations that he had to handle, but overall, I thought he played well."

Davis' debut played out like we typically expect of a rookie. There were some things he did well. There are also some things over the course of the game that popped up that he needs to continue to work on.

In coverage, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer threw Davis' way eight times and completed seven of those for 73 yards for a passer rating of 104.7, according to Pro Football Focus statistics.

As Davis continues to develop and gain experience, he'll improve in the coverage part of the game. That's typically where the biggest adjustment comes for rookie linebackers.

But, all in all, Davis was solid in his debut, which is good news for a Lions' defense that was overall impressive in their first test of the season.

"He stands in front of our guys. He calls the defenses. No hesitation. He's right up front. He's right there, and our guys know he's with them," Austin said of Davis.

"And I thought he was productive. Like all of us, there were things that we could do better last week, and that's what our goal is this week. We want to be better than we were last week."


Rookie second-round pick Teez Tabor was inactive last week, which has some Lions fans worried about his early development. They shouldn't be.

The Lions are deeper at cornerback than they have been in years. With veterans DJ Hayden and Nevin Lawson splitting reps opposite Darius Slay, and rookie Jamal Agnew being the team's No. 1 punt returner, it's simply a numbers game for Tabor. The Lions don't need six cornerbacks on gameday when they can only have 46 players active.

"There's nothing he's done, it's just what I think of the other guys, how they fit in the overall game plan," Austin said of Tabor being inactive Week 1. "He's doing everything right and we'll see him at some point."

Because of their depth, the Lions can bring Tabor along slow without putting a ton of pressure on him, which could be the best thing for him in the long run.

Tabor certainly seems to have the right mindset about the situation.

"Coming in every day and getting better, that's the key right now," Tabor said Friday.


Sticking with the cornerback position, Austin confirmed Friday that the Lions' rotation between Lawson and Hayden last week at the right cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay was done for no other reason than to get two equally skilled players on the field. 

"We feel both those guys have the ability to play for us, and so we want to get them both out there and give them opportunities to play for us," Austin said.

Lawson started last week and played 32 snaps, or 43 percent of the plays on defense. Hayden played 55 percent of the snaps (41).

It seems that rotation might be here to stay and who ends up playing more could simply be a product of that week's game plan.


According to Pro Football Focus statistics, Lions defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter was one of ten interior defenders with four or more pressures in Week 1 of their rookie season in the PFF era. Others on that list include Gerald McCoy, J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh.

"He did a really good job in terms of being active," Austin said of his rookie defensive tackle. "He's really a good, natural pass rusher. He's got a lot of work to do in the run game and knowing everything that we do, but he's really a good motor, a good try-hard guy, and I think being able to find out that you've got a young fourth rotational tackle in there is really good for us.

"We weren't sure about what we had when we got him, he's a little light, we knew we had to put some weight on him, but he plays a lot stronger than he is, than what he weighs, and he's really active."

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