The linebacker position was a serious issue for the Bengals defense in 2018, so it wasn’t surprising when they double down at the linebacker position in the 2019 NFL draft. The second linebacker they selected was Auburn’s Deshaun Davis.
Davis is considered a very intelligent play and even a coach on the field. He does however have some limitations, which is why he was a Day 3 pick.
Davis’ testing results left a lot to be desired, but he does show athleticism on the field. Watch as he changes direction and closes in on the quarterback in this clip. This demonstrates that he has enough functional athletic ability to play the position.
Davis once again shows off his athletic ability against this jet sweep here. The ball carrier presses all the way to the numbers. Davis is not quite there in time to make a play in the backfield, but is able to adjust and make the tackle from behind for a short gain.
Davis is not an extraordinary athlete, but appears to meet the minimum threshold to be at least serviceable on a defense.
Davis generally does a good job of getting off of blocks. Here he takes on the puller who is leading up the hole with good leverage and brings his hips through which gives him power. As a result, he is able to disengage from the block and make the tackle in the gap.
In this clip, the center is quick to get off of the double team block and up to Davis. Davis engages on the center aggressively and is able to shed the block with ease. He then tracks down the ball carrier on the edge, knocking another blocker out of the way in order to get involved in the tackle.
Davis is a bit slow to make his reads, which may be a function of his role in the Auburn defense. This frequently leads him to get blocked, but he engages the blockers before they engage him and this helps him get off these block more often than not.
Davis has a lot of issues with his tackling. Far too often he dives at the legs of the ball carrier. Even when he does not, he is inconsistent bring his hips and keeping his legs moving.
This clip is a great example of him diving to make a tackle. He is able to make the play this time, but when a player dives he takes his eyes off of the ball carrier and leaves his feet. Both of these things can lead to missed tackles.
Look at the size of the gap the ball carrier is running through. If he planted his outside foot and cut to the inside just as Davis left his feet, he would be running for a long time.
This is a much better tackle. It is an inside zone play to the offense’s right and Davis is the outside linebacker to their left. Davis is the cut back player and patiently waits, reading the backfield action. When the running back looks to bend back to the left, Davis steps forward. This time, he stays on his feet and brings his hips on contact with the running back. Davis keeps his feet moving and drives him back into the backfield.
Davis is inconsistent as a tackler. He has shown that he can be a good tackler, but dives wildly too often and even when he keeps his feet he does not always follow through on his tackles. These issues are fixable with good coaching.
Davis was not asked to do too much in coverage. He mostly drops into the hole and reads the quarterback. In this clip he does just that. After showing blitz, he bails out keeping his eyes on the quarterback. The quarterback sets up quickly to throw to the left, and Davis breaks on it quickly. He gets there shortly after the ball and is able to get involved in the tackle.
Deshaun Davis is not going to blow you away with his athletic ability, but he shows some flashes of ability that indicate that he could make an NFL roster. He is a physical player, with a nose for the ball. His athleticism is a limiting factor, but many of his issues can be fixed.