Davis goes from un­wanted in NFL to un­ques­tion­able suc­cess story

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - The Den­ver Post By Nicki Jhab­vala

A lit­tle more than three years ago, Todd Davis was an­other face in the pool of NFL un­want­eds, pray­ing, hop­ing his dream of mak­ing it big was still alive. No one drafted him out of Sacra­mento State. No team called im­me­di­ately af­ter. No of­fer was made un­til June 23, 2014, when the New Or­leans Saints signed him to their prac­tice squad — only to waive him four times be­fore he headed to Den­ver.

Since that fate­ful move in Novem­ber 2014, Davis has de­fied the NFL odds, mak­ing the un­likely leap from castoff to in­jury fill-in to starter, be­com­ing a ma­jor player on a Bron­cos de­fense clut­tered with ma­jor play­ers.

“He’s un­be­liev­able,” de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Joe Woods said Sun­day af­ter the Bron­cos’ first prac­tice in full pads at train­ing camp. “He’s the type of guy you want to coach on de­fense. He’s play­ing 100 miles an hour on every snap, even in walk­throughs. You have to tell him, ‘Hey, slow down, it’s a walkthrough.’ But that’s his

mind-set. He’s hun­gry. He’s out there to prove a point, that he can play at a high level in this league, and he’s do­ing a great job so far in this camp.”

Ask his coaches, ask his team­mates, and Davis made an­other leap in 2017 but has failed to let go of the past. It rests firmly on his shoul­ders and was his fuel dur­ing the off­sea­son and his mo­ti­va­tion so far in camp as he and Bran­don Mar­shall pre­pare for an­other year to­gether at in­side line­backer.

Davis re­mem­bers that feel­ing on the couch. And he re­mem­bers the crit­ics last year, de­spite lead­ing the Bron­cos with 97 tack­les and lead­ing all lineback­ers in de­fen­sive stop-to-missed tackle ra­tio (20½-to-1), ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus. Den­ver’s run de­fense tanked from No. 3 in the 32-team NFL (an av­er­age of 83.6 yards rush­ing al­lowed per game) in 2015 to 28th (130.3) last year, and many fingers — fairly or not — were pointed at the team’s in­side lineback­ers.

“We got scru­ti­nized quite a bit last year and I think we just want to put all that to rest,” Davis said. “We got a lot of chips on our shoul­ders right that we have to go out there and get rid of.”

The Davis-Mar­shall tan­dem doesn’t have the brand­ing of the Bron­cos’ self-ti­tled No-Fly Zone sec­ondary. It doesn’t have the records and mar­ketabil­ity of the pass-rush­ing corps led by all­pro Von Miller. And it cer­tainly doesn’t have the size of the big men up front, an­chored by Derek Wolfe and new nose tackle Do­mata Peko.

But the paths and rise of both in­side lineback­ers (Mar­shall was drafted by the Jack­sonville Jaguars but waived three times be­fore the Bron­cos signed him in 2013) are unique. Their pasts con­tinue to drive them — and Den­ver’s de­fense.

“It’s not an ex­act sci­ence. We all make mis­takes in the draft process when we’re eval­u­at­ing play­ers,” Woods said. “Some­times you hit on a guy, some­times you miss on guys, then you sign a guy that’s a free agent or late-round draft pick and all of a sud­den he turns out to be a stud for you. Todd Davis has proven that. I’m re­ally pleased with where he’s at. He’s re­ally be­come the leader of this de­fense.”

Two months af­ter Davis capped his first full sea­son as a starter, the Bron­cos placed a sec­ond-round re­stricted free-agent ten­der on him to keep him for at least one more year. The bump in pay was more re­flec­tive of his value and con­tri­bu­tion to the team, but next sum­mer will be a bet­ter gauge, when he’s an un­re­stricted free agent and likely fac­ing a big pay­day.

To pre­pare, Davis spent much of his time dur­ing the off­sea­son hon­ing his speed and ex­plo­sive­ness at Landow Per­for­mance, less than 2 miles from Bron­cos head­quar­ters.

The train­ing, along with Woods’ en­hanced de­fense and a stronger rap­port with Mar­shall, has Davis eye­ing big­ger prizes.

The chem­istry of Davis and Mar­shall in­side has al­lowed both to think less and play faster. Each knows what the other is think­ing. Each knows what the other is try­ing to do.

And each has a few chips. “Todd is a hard worker, man. He’s a great player,” Mar­shall said. “I think a lot of peo­ple slept on him last year and the year be­fore that. Todd has been ready for two years now, since the Su­per Bowl run. Now he’s in there and get­ting his sec­ond year as a full-time starter. He’s get­ting com­fort­able. He knows the de­fense and he’s go­ing to make even more plays than he did last year.”

John Leyba, The Den­ver Post

In­side line­backer Todd Davis is a happy camper this sum­mer at Bron­cos head­quar­ters. “He’s the type of guy you want to coach on de­fense,” says co­or­di­na­tor Joe Woods.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.