Patience, in the case of Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, is becoming a virtue.
Davis was one of only two linebackers last season to finish with 100 tackles and at least six sacks. He played in all 16 games. 2018 was arguably the best season of his young career.
This season began with Davis suffering a high ankle sprain in the third preseason game that forced him to miss the first two weeks of the regular season. In his first six games back from injury he was inconsistent and received a negative grade by Pro Football Focus in each of those contests. He reached eight tackles just once, and had one sack and two tackles for loss over that six-game span.
The last two games against Chicago and Dallas have been different for Davis, however. He's been the highest graded defender for the Lions the last two weeks by PFF, and he's recorded 16 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Chicago was held to 81 yards rushing and Dallas 75.
So, what's been the difference the last two weeks for Davis?
Coaches have stressed patience with him, and it's paying off.
"Pretty much just looking at what I do and then looking at what teams try to do to attack us and just being more aware in certain situations and understanding what they have going on and what we're trying to do as a defense," Davis said of how coaches have tried to slow the game in a way to help him play faster.
"I just relax and read my keys and react when I see what I need to make me go wherever I need to go."
There is such a thing as a player playing too fast, and not letting things develop in front of them before making the right read and attacking. Preaching patience and letting the play develop a half second longer in front of him before he sees it and strikes has made a difference the last couple weeks for Davis.
"I focus on one play at a time," Davis said. "I don't like to do too much. I feel like I've been doing that a little bit this season. Now, just coming out and just doing my job and doing it to the best of my ability."
O-LINE ROTATION PAYING DIVIDENDS
The Lions have used a three-man rotation at guard pretty much all season between Joe Dahl, Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins. Dahl's played 86.9 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps and Glasgow 82.2, but Wiggins has rotated in pretty consistently and has played 41.3 percent of Detroit's snaps this season.
With center Frank Ragnow dealing with a concussion, Glasgow has moved over to center this week. That leaves Dahl and Wiggins at the two guard spots. The fact that Wiggins has played so many snaps leading up to this point makes this a pretty easy transition, with the Lions potentially having to lean on him for more snaps Sunday in Washington. It's not a situation where someone cold off the bench has to step in and be put in a position to play considerable snaps he's not used to playing.
The offensive line is typically one position where five guys play the majority of the game when healthy. Other positions on both sides of the ball rotate players in and out over the course of the game, which makes Detroit's rotation at guard this year unique
"I think that's definitely been unique for us this year to have that rotation at the offensive line that we've used and currently in the situation we're in, hopefully it works to our benefit, because those guys have all worked together in some capacity," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said.
HOW HIGH CAN THEY GO?
Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. lead the NFL with eight touchdown catches apiece. Both are on pace for more than 1,000 receiving yards, and with six games still remaining, there's still plenty of opportunity for those numbers to reach some lofty heights for a receiving duo.
Golladay's 18.7 yards per reception is the fifth highest average in the league. He catches a ball for a first down 84.6 percent of the time, which is tops in the league.
Of Jones' eight touchdowns, seven have come in the red zone, which is the most in the league. He's one of only six active players to have at least 300 receptions, average 14.5 yards per reception and score at least 40 touchdowns. The other names on that list are Julio Jones, A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton and Mike Evans.
Golladay and Jones are playing some good football, and that duo has been a nice story so far this season.
STAFFORD RULED OUT
As expected, Patricia ruled out quarterback Matthew Stafford from playing Sunday in Washington. It will be the third straight game Stafford's missed after suffering a back injury late in the Oakland game Week 9. Jeff Driskel is expected to start in his place.