O'HARA: Davis' second season a stepping stone to lift his game to a higher level

Wherever he stepped on the field, and whatever he put down on videos and stats sheets, Jarrad Davis left a mark behind in the 2019 season.

What he did in his second season as the Detroit Lions’ starting middle linebacker – and he did a lot – was just a stepping stone for Davis to lift his game and the team’s defense to a higher level.

His learning curve grew, and his game progressed within a season when he had to learn a new system under head coach Matt Patricia, just like he did as a rookie in 2017 under former head coach Jim Caldwell.

He already feels like he has gotten a jump start on next season from what he learned under Patricia and his staff.

“It’s going to be huge,” Davis said as he headed into the offseason. “I had to learn last year, and I had to learn again this year. I was able to pick it up a lot quicker this year. It’s going to make a huge difference going into the offseason, knowing what we need to do – and just exactly who we are as a team.”

The Lions closed out the season with one of their best performances of the year in a 31-0 win over the Packers. Davis had a big game, with seven tackles, a pass breakup, two tackles for loss and a sack.

It was his sixth sack of the season. Compared to his two sacks as a rookie, it showed how much he has developed overall.

And, of course, he wants more.

“I’m excited to work this defense so I can get better at it,” he said. “I want to be more of a threat to the other teams we’re playing. It’s hard to block us when you’ve got four dominant pass rushers out there.”

The way Davis performed against the Packers was another example of the attitude he brings to the game. The word “meaningless” is not in his vocabulary when it comes to games.

It’s one of the reasons he is emerging as a young leader on the defense.

“It was special -- last game, finish out the season strong,” Davis said. “That was our best game this year, defensively.

“Once (Aaron) Rodgers went down, it was sort of like blood in the water. Attack mode.”

Davis sacked Rodgers on a play that resulted in a concussion that forced him out of the game. Defensive end Romeo Okwara was in on the play.

There was no intent to injure Rodgers, but Davis talked about his aggressive style.

“I love it,” he said. “I love throwing myself around. Kind of reckless abandon – no concern for myself. No concern for him, either.

“I’m the wrong guy to play against. I love going out there and just hitting guys and knocking them down – being as physical as possible.”

It was suggested to Davis that his attitude is reminiscent of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who talked about entering the ring with “bad intentions.”

“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “I don’t care who you are – if I know you, if I don’t know you, you’re going to feel this. This is how we play.”

The name of his position “middle linebacker” doesn’t exactly fit how Davis lines up or plays in Patricia’s defense. He lines up outside as much as he does inside in what is a true multiple defensive scheme.

“It depends on what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do – what we’re trying to attack with the team we’re playing.,” he said. “The pieces are going to continue to move. It’s hard to say where I am and where I’m going to be.

“There’s so much that a linebacker can do in this defense. Whether it’s me or an outside linebacker doesn’t matter. There’s so much we can do in this defense.

“It's super friendly to a linebacker. We love that.”

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