Jordan Davis explains quest to prove he’s more than just a run-stopper originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
If Jordan Davis became just an elite run-stuffing nose tackle in the NFL, he’d have a long career, he’d make a lot of money. Davis would still be a valuable player in the league.
Davis wants to be more than that.
And through two games in 2023, he’s starting to prove that he is.
“I don’t want to be known as just a run-stopper,” Davis said on Thursday. “I want to be more than that, an all-around guy. We’ll just continue working. Rome isn’t built in one day. We just put our hat on and keep working.”
Davis, 23, was the 13th overall pick out of Georgia in the 2022 draft and he did some nice things in an injury-shortened rookie season. He began to scratch the surface of his ability as a run-stuffing nose tackle in the NFL.
At 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, Davis’s first task will always be to stop the run. He was expected to be elite in that category from Day 1.
As a pass rusher? Well, the Eagles saw his insane athletic profile and thought that he could develop into a good pass rusher. Someday.
It appears that timeline has been sped up a bit.
Because after playing in 13 games as a rookie without a sack, Davis already has 1 1/2 sacks through two games in his second NFL season. And he has the first three quarterback hits of his career in these first two games too.
This growth might come as a surprise to many, but not defensive coordinator Sean Desai, who took over for Jonathan Gannon this spring. Based on what Desai has seen in his time with Davis this year, the ascension makes some sense.
“My experience of him has been that he has it in him to be this explosive, physical, knock-back type of player and disrupt games,” Desai said. “And he’s done that.”
The key, Davis said, has simply been hard work.
“Just takes a little dedication and look in the mirror,” Davis said. “Look at the man in the mirror, knowing what you gotta fix and then reviewing it. Every day I sit in the meeting room, I got my iPad, I’m sitting there writing down things I need to do. ‘I messed up my hands on this one, I wasn’t low on this one, that’s why I got drove back.’ Just little things like that. But it’s all about improvement.”
During the early portion of his NFL career and even dating back to his college career at Georgia, Davis has always been an unselfish player. His role for most of his high-level football career has been to eat space, occupy double teams and stuff the run. His ability to do all those things has freed up his teammates to get after the quarterback. “Two on me, somebody’s free,” Davis has said before.
But early in the 2023 season, we’re already seeing a transformation. Just the fact that Davis is on the field for clear-cut passing downs illustrates how much more of a threat he is to get after quarterbacks this season.
On the Vikings’ first offensive possession last Thursday night, Davis got a QB hit on a 3rd-and-9. Those are the kinds of snaps Davis simply wasn’t getting last year.
“I always said my job is to get them to 3rd down,” Davis said, “but now I kind of want to be on the field.”
Of course, it’s not easy to get on the field for those situations on this team. The Eagles already had Fletcher Cox and Milton Williams and this year they’ve added Davis’s college teammate, first-round pick Jalen Carter, to the mix.
Carter, through two games, leads all NFL interior defensive linemen with 11 total pressures, according to ProFootballFocus. But that’s what everyone expected of Carter. That was what he did in college. This is a tad new for Davis.
On Monday night, the Eagles will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pro Bowl nose tackle Vita Vea, who was the 12th overall pick back in 2018. Vea is one of the players Davis has been compared to most since the draft and Davis gets it.
“I like Vita. I like Vita a lot,” Davis said. “That was the guy they would always compare me to. Shoot, we’re both the same size, we’re big, we’re athletic. Of course, our games are going to be similar.”
But it took Vea some time to really show his pass-rushing chops. He never had more than 3 sacks in a season until 2021, when he got 4. Vea had a career-high 6 1/2 sacks last season in Year 5 and already has 1 1/2 through a couple games in Year 6. It can take defensive tackles a while to really grow as pass rushers, which makes this early jump from Davis this season so impressive.
Overall, Davis said the biggest improvement for him from Year 1 to Year 2 is just understanding how to better be a pro. That means eating right, working on his body and even developing a routine with his dog, a pit-terrier named Izzy.
Whatever he’s doing, it’s working.
“I’m just happy that he ain’t just settle for just being a run-stopper,” veteran Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We told him that he could be whatever he wanted to be. It’s just all about making sure you’re in shape to be able to be you all the time. I think that’s what he has embraced. I’m proud of him on that but I know that he’s got so much more that he can do.”