For the most part, Eagles fans are elated that Howie Roseman was able to snag Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first-round of this year’s NFL Draft.
For the casual fans, Davis catapulted into the draft spotlight after an electric combine performance. Coming in at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, Davis ran the second-fastest 40 of any interior defensive lineman at the combine with a 4.78 mark. His 123” broad jump placed in the 99th percentile among defensive tackles and Davis’ 10-yard split time of 1.68s fell in the 83rd percentile.
With his athletic profile checking all the boxes, you’d be hard pressed to find any scout of NFL Draft expert who casts doubt on Davis’ potential at the NFL level. It’s the rate at which Davis makes impactful plays relative to his potential to make them that garners some concern.
Let’s breakdown what Davis brings to the table as an NFL defensive tackle and assess how great his impact will be in year one of his pro career.
Any NFL scout will tell you that Davis’ calling card is controlling the line of scrimmage and clogging up running lanes. At Georgia, he routinely saw double teams and more often than not he stood his ground and forced ball carriers into traffic. For his career, Davis’ average depth of tackle on running plays was just 0.6 yards past the line of scrimmage.
For as big as Davis is, he’s unnaturally quick off the ball, making immediate contact with offensive lineman and using leverage to his advantage. If an opposing offense dares to use just one blocker against Davis, more often than not he’ll toss them aside to make a play on the ball.
Within the Eagles defense, utilizing Davis on early downs will be his primary role. Javon Hargrave had a career year in 2021 as a pass rusher, but he struggled against the run, posting a Pro Football Focus run-defense grade of 30.1 (131st out of 136 qualifying interior lineman).
Eagles fans shouldn’t have many concerns with Davis’ ability against the run. But that’s only a small part of playing defensive tackle in the NFL, and Davis is clearly not as dominant in some of the other aspects.
In 2021, Davis played a career-high 378 snaps for Georgia’s defense. While that was a great number for Davis, comparatively speaking it’s a very low snap count for someone with his pedigree. 98 interior defenders in the NFL surpassed that snap count last year and 240 managed to do it at the collegiate level.
Davis averaged just 25.2 snaps per game in 2021. There were factors that contributed to Davis’ lacking snap count that were out of his control. Georgia rotated their defensive lineman a lot and their defense was stockpiled with NFL talent. Five members of that vaunted Georgia defense went in the first-round this year, three of them being defensive lineman.
Nevertheless, that wasn’t the only reason he only played 25 snaps per game last year. As evidenced in the SEC Championship against Alabama, Davis simply can’t be on the field in hurry up situations. And when Georgia pushed Davis to have a heavier workload, his effort was lacking. There are times where it looks like Davis is gasping for air.
Any player will get eaten alive in Philly for plays like this. I’m surprised more Eagles fans haven’t pointed this kind of stuff out yet.
In 2021, over half of the NFL used no huddle for at least 100 of their plays. If Davis can’t improve in this facet of his game, opposing offenses will live in the no huddle against the Eagles.
Just looking at the stats, it’s easy to tell Davis wasn’t a very productive pass rusher in college. Over his four years at Georgia, Davis notched 30 quarterback pressures on 600 pass rushing snaps. His teammate and fellow defensive tackle, Devonte Wyatt, had 24 pressures in 2021 alone on just 263 pass rushing opportunities. Wyatt and Davis are completely different players with vastly differing skill sets, which is why they worked so well together. But you get the point — Davis is essentially a no-show against the pass.
Sure, his ability to take on blocks can free up some of his mates along the line to get after the quarterback. But in clear passing situations, Georgia opted to sideline Davis. They had to keep tabs on his stamina so giving him a breather on third downs just made sense.
NFL defenses utilize sub packages on about 75% of their snaps, so Davis will inevitably have to play in passing situations even if he doesn’t provide much.
Given the Eagles current situation at defensive tackle, Davis shouldn’t be needed on third downs. Hargrave is one of the best interior rushers in the league and both Fletcher Cox and Milton Williams are more than capable in pass rushing situations. But again, that brings us back to the no huddle looks the Eagles will inevitably face with Davis in the lineup. Teams will look to expose Davis just like Alabama did this past season. And I’m not so sure Davis will be able to overcome it right off the bat.
Projections for year one
In today’s NFL, if a first-round pick doesn’t make an immediate impact — especially one with as much hype as Davis — they’ll be subject to constant ridicule. We know all about that here in Philly.
Maybe Davis slimming down to about 330-340 will help his stamina throughout his rookie season, but I’m really not sold. He had constant weight issues at Georgia and playing only 25 snaps per game is a red flag no matter how you spin it. The NFL game is much faster and much more intense on a down-to-down basis than college. Coming from the SEC helps a little, but there aren’t any gimmes at this level. Everyone in the NFL is great at playing football; you don’t need me to tell you that.
Can Davis overcome this issue and silence the critics like me this season? It’s impossible to say for certain.
Based on everything we’ve seen from Davis during his time at Georgia, history would tell us no. His potential is through the roof and I’m sure that’s what the Eagles’ scouting department was banking on when they gave Howie the green light to make the pick. At his peak, Davis is truly a one-of-one talent, but far too often he gets in his own way.
On early downs, I’m sure Davis will still be very good and make plays, but as we all know, making plays as a pass rusher is what seperates good interior lineman from the elite ones. Davis is not good at rushing the passer and until he proves that he can be, he won’t be an elite player at this level.
As you can probably tell, I have a ton of concerns about Davis. Potential and projections are the pillars of NFL Draft strategy nowadays, so selecting Davis as high as he Eagles did makes sense from that standpoint. But when that potential doesn’t translate to the NFL field, it makes everyone involved look silly.
I hope Davis reaches his full potential as an Eagle, but there’s no way I’ll believe it until I see it with my own eyes.
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