Jarrad Davis hasn't stumbled on either step in his first two preseason games with the Detroit Lions, and he feels ready to make a jump at step No. 3.
The rookie middle linebacker is excited about the prospect of facing the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots Friday night in the third preseason game at Ford Field.
It's a big test for the Lions as they get ready for the regular season, and an important one for Davis in his rapid development.
He has shown nothing at any point to indicate that the Lions made a mistake when they drafted him in the first round out of Florida to be their starting middle linebacker of the present and future. Davis has handled the physical and mental challenges that are required to play the position at a high level.
On the mental side, it can be a daunting responsibility for a rookie to be thrust so quickly into a leadership position. The middle linebacker is responsible for making calls and getting veteran players lined up properly.
There has been no hesitancy on Davis' part to handle that aspect of his position.
"I think he's fine," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Tuesday. "To me, there's nothing that makes him nervous or uneasy about it, because he's been doing it for a long time.
"It's just football, and that's what we try to tell him: 'Hey, football is football. You're the MIKE. You're talking to that huddle. You're talking to that defense.
"'It's yours. Let's go.'"
The defense played well in the first two games, surrendering only one touchdown, three field goals and 16 total points in victories over the Colts and Jets.
With all due respect to those opponents, the Patriots are in a different category. They are the NFL's dominant team of the 21st century.
Whether the offense is directed by Tom Brady or either of his backups – Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett– it will be a tougher test on all fronts than anything the Lions faced in the first two games.
Davis welcomes the challenge.
"I think it's a great opportunity," he told reporters this week. "Like you said, the defending Super Bowl champions. To be able to go against them in a preseason game is really going to help us as a team."
The third game traditionally is closest in the preseason to being like a regular-season game.
Head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff set the weekly practice and meeting schedule to be similar to the regular season. There is more game-planning than in the first two games, but nothing close to the regular season.
"I like that we're really trying to get into the details this week," Davis said. "That's huge. That helps me really focus and pay attention to what we're doing in practice. Not saying I didn't do that before. At the same time, it's almost like it's more exciting to really go through the preparation this week."
In his personal performance, Davis looked more certain of himself and quicker to react in Game 2 against the Jets than he was in Game 1. On the first play against the Jets, he broke through a gap to stop Jets running back Bilal Powell for a two-yard gain. Davis read the play and reacted without hesitation.
Overall, Davis played 16 snaps – the same as starting weak-side linebacker Tahir Whitehead -- and had two tackles. That was a slight increase for Davis from the previous week, when he played 14 snaps and had one tackle.
Davis accepts the responsibilities that go with the territory of his position. He also likes the new territory that he calls his home field – Ford Field.
"It was a great atmosphere," he said of last week's game. "I really enjoyed it, the time I spent out there in front of the fans. It was really fun to be out there, playing football the way we played."