Why Jarrad Davis could be part of Detroit Lions defense again in 2021

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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When the Detroit Lions declined the fifth-year option on his contract last spring, it seemed like Jarrad Davis’ days were numbered in Detroit.

Davis will be an unrestricted free agent in March, but the Lions’ hire of Dan Campbell as head coach might have opened the door slightly for his return.

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Speaking on the “Stoney and Jansen with Heather” show Friday on WXYT-FM (97.1), Campbell singled out Davis as someone he made sure his tight ends were aware of when the Lions hosted the New Orleans Saints in October.

Campbell was the Saints’ assistant head coach/tight ends coach before accepting the Lions’ head coaching job.

“One of the first things I circled was, man, if we’re running inside zone and we’re running our 42 ace, our lead draw, and you’re leading on No. 40 (Davis), man, you better fricking be ready for him to drop his hat and hit you right under the chin,” Campbell said. “He will literally split your chin open and knock your hat off. So look, there’s there’s little things that you circle in there, just on guys that they had.”

Davis, the Lions’ first-round pick in 2016, lost his starting job this season with the addition of Jamie Collins and Reggie Ragland, but made strides as a player in a more limited role.

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The Lions, coming off a 5-11 season, need to overhaul their defense this offseason, though both Campbell and new general manager Brad Holmes have stopped short of calling it full-scale rebuild.

“There’s some pieces here that I’m fired up about,” Campbell said Thursday in his introductory news conference. “I really am. Look, let’s call a spade a spade, there’s probably more pieces offensively than defensively that super fire me up, but that’s tentatively kind of how I feel.”

Campbell and Holmes are scheduled to meet this weekend and do a deep dive on the Lions’ roster. Davis, Ragland, defensive end Romeo Okwara and safety Duron Harmon are the Lions’ top defensive free agents.

The Lions are expected to hire Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn as defensive coordinator and ex-Los Angeles Chargers defensive line coach Giff Smith to coach their defensive line.

Both the Saints and Chargers ran 4-3 defenses in 2020, though Glenn also played in 3-4 schemes under Bill Parcells.

Campbell said the Lions appeared to be “still working through the scheme” on defense last season, and said that may have played a part in some of the team’s defensive issues.

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The Lions finished last in the NFL in total and scoring defense, 30th in pass defense and 28th against the run this season.

“I feel like they were still trying to mesh through that scheme that they had, with the personnel they had,” Campbell said on 97.1 The. “Let me say this, it almost looked like they were trying to figure out, what world are we in right now? Are we trying to play this four-down up-the-field (defense)? Are we trying to two-gap? Am I trying to set an edge? Am I squeezing? Where’s the safety fitting? I just felt like it was a little disheveled, that’s all.

“And look, I’m not trying to blame the coaching staff, but that’s not on the players all time, either, now. So certainly when you don’t know what you’re doing all the time or you’re not 100% sure, you’re not going to play to the talent level that you have, and I would tell you this, that’s the last thing that we’re going to do here. Our players are going to know what to do, so if we get 100% of their talent, we will pull it out of them because they know exactly what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and they’re going to pull the trigger and go.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


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