Akeem Davis-Gaither was a fast-rising draft prospect who many thought could push himself into the early second-round with a great performance at the NFL Combine. An injury that he played through for the duration of his senior season kept him from running at the combine and as a result he fell to the Bengals in the fourth round.
Let’s take a look at what this versatile Appalachian State linebacker brings to Cincinnati.
Akeem Davis-Gaither cutback 2 pic.twitter.com/rSAQ4IAX3o— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
Davis-Gaither does not have much experience as a box-linebacker, but he has demonstrated the requisite skills.
In this clip he takes on the block, striking with both hands and disengaging to make the tackle on the runner’s back hip.
This is exactly where he belongs and exactly how he should execute.
Akeem Davis-Gaither edge tackle pic.twitter.com/G8pZZcDMAp— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
Davis-Gaither was in large part an edge defender in Appalachian State’s defense, but due to his size, he projects as an off-ball linebacker.
He may be a bit undersized, but he doesn’t look like it here. He takes on the offensive tackle on the edge, then disengages to make the tackle.
This shows his skill to disengage from the block and his strength as he takes on the much larger blocker. He also shows some burst, closing those last few feet to make the tackle before the ball carrier could hit the edge.
Akeem Davis-Gaither edge 4 pic.twitter.com/lwYXFcmepf— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
In this clip, Davis-Gaither is matched up with a tight end.
He engages on the edge, but as the ball breaks to the inside, he disengages from the block and gets involved in the tackle.
This is an excellent job. He takes care of his initial responsibility on the edge, then rallies to his pursuit responsibility.
Akeem Davis-Gaither edge pic.twitter.com/dYhYdsV3yY— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
This is a bit unconventional, but Davis-Gaither has made it work multiple times.
The offensive tackle blocks down. Davis-Gaither gets up the field quickly and is able to sneak in front of the pulling guard, who is responsible for kicking him out. Davis Gaither makes the tackle for a loss.
Davis-Gaither has a knack for being able to slip right by would-be blockers and this is a great example.
Akeem Davis-Gaither gets under the whip pic.twitter.com/hajdMFubD8— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
Davis-Gaither also does an excellent job in coverage.
In this clip the quarterback wants the whip route, but Davis-Gaither has dropped right underneath it.
This allows the pressure to get to the quarterback.
Akeem Davis-Gaither burst pic.twitter.com/AowNY0uHXq— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) April 28, 2020
Davis-Gaither does a great job of reading the quarterback in this clip.
He breaks with enough speed to beat the receiver’s block and is able to make a diving tackle for a loss.
His speed was definitely a factor, but his quick read of the quarterback and confidence to break with conviction are what made this play.
Davis-Gaither will be an interesting moving piece for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.
He can play in the box and in the slot as well as blitzing inside and off of the edge. His speed, versatility, and ability in coverage are representative of a shift in what the Bengals look for in the position as they modernize this defense.