Arizona quarterback Josh Rosen looked to get talented running back David Johnson involved in the passing game early and often last week, but it seemed at every turn Lions second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis was there to thwart them. Screen passes, quick outs or flares out of the backfield, it didn’t matter, it was like Davis was in the huddle and knew what was coming. He laid the thunder on Johnson a couple times when he got there.
Johnson finished with eight catches for just 12 yards, with Davis making a good number of those stops.
Davis played like a heat-seeking missile last week in arguably his best game as a Lion. Detroit held Arizona to just three points in a 17-3 victory. Davis recorded eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass defended.
Davis’ play over the last month is part of the reason why Detroit’s defense as a whole has been playing well over that span.
“There’s a lot of things I’m definitely recognizing at this point in the season and my career,” Davis said. “I’m picking up things a lot faster from watching the tape. You see so many things so many times over and over again it’s like, ‘Okay, there’s no point in me waiting on this no more. The play is here. Let me go make it.’ Now, there’s a lot of plays and a lot of situations that come up during the game where I’m definitely moving a lot faster.”
Davis will be the first one to admit he’s far from a finished product, and there have been plays he’s left on the field this season, but those plays have been far fewer over the last month.
He attributes that to a better understanding of the new scheme, not just by him, but all the players on that side of the ball.
“Honestly, we knew we were going to have a little bit of a learning curve,” he said. “Going through trial by fire, you know, these first couple weeks of the season. Just going out and figuring out, what works? What doesn’t work? Why does it work? Why doesn’t it work?”
Davis said he learned a ton about himself, this defense and his teammates over that period, and became a much better player and leader for it.
“We’re seeing things the same way (now),” Davis said. “It allows us to go out and play faster knowing that, ‘Hey, I can be here knowing that he’s going to be here to cover me.’ We had to switch up a lot of things within this building and within this defense. It’s coming out and we’re reaping the benefits of it right now.”
The addition of Damon Harrison inside at the nose, accompanied by the good play upfront by A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand, has also allowed Davis and the other linebackers to roam a little more free to make plays. That’s played a big factor as well with this defense playing good ball right now. It all seems to be coming together nicely for a Lions defense that ranks eighth in total yards allowed and fourth stopping the run over the last month.
Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen has rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games, and leads the team in rushing this season with 490 yards and five rushing scores.
“This guy is very special sitting back and watching him on tape,” Davis said this week of Allen.
But the Lions have been very good this season containing quarterbacks with the ability to run. They did so against Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Mitchell Trubisky. In fact, the Lions have allowed just 62 total rushing yards to quarterbacks all season.
“I’ve seen a lot of good quarterbacks that can pull it down and run, this guy is really something,” Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said. “He’s big, he’s got really good speed, he’s got good vision. He’s their leading rusher so he’s just very impressive. He’s got a strong arm, he can throw the ball. There’s plays on that film where the ball is going 70 yards in the air. So, he’s a handful, there’s no question about that.”
It will be important for Detroit’s front to contain Allen as much as they can, and for the back seven to limit the damage when and if he does break the line of scrimmage and look to make plays with his legs. They’ve done a good job with that all year, and will be tested once again this week.
SLAY'S FIRST TOUCHDOWN
It took six years, but cornerback Darius Slay finally recorded his first career touchdown last week when he picked off a Rosen pass and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown. Not only did that play help the Lions secure a 17-3 win, but it got some of Slay’s teammates off his back as well.
“He finally got one,” veteran Glover Quin said with a laugh this week. “We joked with him all the time about his running skills when he gets the ball in his hands.
“We all know he’s fast, so when you catch that one in the flat like that, there are very few people who can make that tackle. Definitely a great moment for him. Happy for him.”