Jamin Davis is progressing. Commanders need it to keep going.


Late in the second quarter of the Washington Commanders’ second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker Jamin Davis saw a play before it happened. The Chiefs tried to fool the defense by moving a wide receiver from left to right and faking a throw sweep transfer – the exact type of eye candy that, in the past, could have sown just enough doubt in the game. Davis’ mind to make him distrust his reading. He could have wavered or even taken a step toward sweeping the jets, wasting the milliseconds and fractions of space that separate success and failure in the NFL.

But this time, Davis recognized the deception and dove into his gap at the line of scrimmage, where he met running back Isiah Pacheco and dropped him for a minimal gain.

While the pre-season is an inherently flawed sample and despite not making a lot of splatter plays, Davis feels like he’s had enough good reads and quick reactions to help shake off the frustrations. of what he called a “humiliating” rookie year. He begins to recognize himself on tape again.

“It’s Jamin Davis,” he said of the game against the Chiefs. “You want to get there consistently and make that your foundation, who you are as a player, rather than, ‘Oh, he shows flashes or who he can be as a player.’ F— that. That’s me. . . . That’s literally me. [I’m] just go there to be more comfortable, and [I’m] play ball, bro. I didn’t go this far for nothing. That’s just how I think right now.”

One of the reasons Davis has felt more comfortable is his new role in the defensive scheme. During his rookie year, Kentucky’s first-round pick didn’t have an offseason schedule and struggled to master the difficult role of middle linebacker, which often slowed him down and led to a role lower in the second half of the season.

This offseason, Washington moved Cole Holcomb into the role of Mike and Davis off the ball, which eases his responsibilities and should help his brain unlock his body. Davis still possesses remarkable athletic talents. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds, jumped 42 inches vertically and has a wingspan of 79⅞ inches, all 95th percentile measurements or higher for a linebacker, according to mockdraftable.com.

If Davis can keep his game quicker and freer, it would be a big boost for a defense trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2021, specifically covering opposing tight ends and running backs.

Running backs JD McKissic, who is sometimes covered by Davis in practice, complimented his performance in camp: “He likes a totally different player.”

“He’s playing with more certainty and more confidence,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Davis. “When he’s mentally locked down and really understands where he belongs, he’s able to come to life. … We’re going to need him to play well.

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Davis’ growth and consistency goes beyond box scoring. On a running play in Washington’s preseason opener against Carolina, Davis encountered a header blocker in space and forced the fullback to bounce outside, where a teammate awaited an easy tackle. . These subtle plays often go unnoticed but help the defense maintain structural integrity while avoiding explosive plays.

For a player like Davis — who was just a one-year starter in college — the low-stakes reps he took this spring and summer were crucial in his ability to feel the game slowing down. And as he became more consistent, his teammates began to trust him more.

Last year, Holcomb said, Davis was sometimes hesitant to speak before the snap because he lacked confidence in his reading or because if he changed his defense his mission would also change, forcing him to reflect. to a new responsibility. This year, Davis has been more confident.

“I’m proud of where Jamin is,” Holcomb said. “He gives me a lot of confidence. I don’t have to worry about him. I don’t have to think about him. He’s out there and he knows what he’s doing.

When Commanders coach Ron Rivera talks about Davis, he often goes back to a Week 3 playoff last season at the Buffalo Bills. On the fourth and second, Davis read running back Devin Singletary executing a route out of the backfield and into the flat. Davis broke on the pitch and arrived at Singletary around the same time as the ball; he threw Singletary back to stop the conversion.

This piece, Rivera noted, was in men’s coverage. If the COs let Davis use his natural skills more, he could become the player they dreamed of when they selected him 19th overall.

Davis said he heard criticism from fans who thought he was a bust or a waste of a first-round pick. He is motivated by them and says, “Let them keep talking like crazy.” But he sees himself on tape, and he wants everyone to see him too. His game this pre-season has given him confidence.

“Now,” he said, “it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s show the world who I really am as a player.’ ”

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