How scheme and technique factor into Jamin Davis' development originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
In reviewing Jamin Davis' Week 1 performance, Ron Rivera made sure to remind reporters of the linebacker's "tremendous skillset." It's something Rivera touches on often when discussing the second-year pro, and judging by Davis' pre-draft measurements, the coach isn't wrong to keep harping on his natural gifts.
However, until the Commanders' defensive scheme and Davis' own technique improve, Davis' play will continue to fall short of his potential.
The 2022 season opener crystallized that statement.
On three separate occasions Sunday, Davis found himself matched up in the slot with Jacksonville wideout Christian Kirk. Kirk, one of the sport's most difficult assignments on the inside, beat Davis with ease for catches on all of those snaps.
NFL offenses, of course, are typically in control of the action and make a point of creating advantages like that, but Rivera believes that members of Washington's sideline can better assist those on the field.
"There are a couple issues that came up that we can correct," Rivera said. "It’s one of those things that we're gonna look at it by game plan, knowing that some people think that's one thing they can try and exploit. Well, we've got to be able to have an answer to take that away and not allow them to exploit that."
So, in those instances, Davis (largely) dodges blame, or at the very least, he and the staff split the blame.
Yet on another rep in the contest, the 23-year-old wasn't graded so leniently.
During Jacksonville's first drive at FedEx Field, Davis was charged with covering speedy running back Travis Etienne in the red zone. Etienne had no real issues bursting out of the backfield and flying by Davis, who was flat-footed when he and Etienne met and quickly fell behind from there.
Fortunately, Trevor Lawrence's touch on the ensuing throw was lacking, so a simple touchdown became a lucky incompletion.
As Rivera noted Monday, that mishap was solely on Davis.
"What I'd like to see him do is get over the top a little bit more as opposed to getting into a chase position," Rivera said. "What you want to do is make sure you're where you need to be.
"It's not that much of a mismatch if he does his techniques the way he should," he added.
Davis was drafted in the first round in 2021 to contribute in coverage for the franchise. While Etienne may be as agile and athletic as Kirk, the bottom line is that Davis will be asked to man up at times with shifty players and the Commanders will expect him to produce stops. In theory, he's not a linebacker that has to be hidden on the majority of passes.
Essentially, yes, putting Davis in the slot on Sunday was a questionable tactic, but lining Davis up across from Etienne in space is supposed to be a fair fight.
Together, the two events from the opener highlight how both Washington and Davis have to progress. Without that progression, then Rivera will consistently be forced to mention Davis' physical traits before explaining away why the traits are routinely overshadowed.