There are only so many waking hours in each day, so Davion Taylor is trying to work in his sleep too.
The Eagles’ 3rd-round pick has been putting in all the requisite time at the NovaCare Complex each and every day during training camp. So after he gets home, he escapes for the length of a half-hour TV show. But then he starts thinking about what questions he needs to ask his coaches in the morning.
“And after that I watch the film and everything, try to go to sleep just thinking about the plays, so that when I go to sleep maybe I’m dreaming about the playbook, or maybe I’m dreaming about what I have to do for the next day,” Taylor said. “That’s what I do and it really has helped me throughout this camp.”
Taylor, 22, literally goes to sleep thinking about football in the hopes that his mind, in an altered conscious state, will continue to work.
You probably won’t find that in a dream book.
But to be fair, Taylor has the Eagles dreaming too. They see the incredibly athletic and fast rookie linebacker and dream that he’ll one day be able to live up to his potential.
There’s no questioning his athleticism. Taylor has all the potential to be a star in the NFL, but he’s raw and everyone knows it. Just look at his athletic makeup.
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Because of his family’s religious beliefs, Taylor didn’t play high school football. So he spent two years at a JUCO program, two years at Colorado and now, bam, he’s in the NFL.
“Every day when I walk out there in practice, I’m like, ‘I’m really in the NFL,’” Taylor said. “‘I’m really playing with these guys.’”
Yeah, he is, for now. Just don’t expect the rookie to have a significant role on defense during the regular season.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, rookies this year are in an even tougher situation after all of OTAs and spring minicamps were canceled. And Jim Schwartz has done a good job of tempering expectations for a few of the members of this draft class, making it clear that linebacker and safety are the hardest positions to learn in his defense. Taylor agreed with that assessment.
Right now, Taylor has been working as a backup linebacker. The top players at the position are Nate Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley and Alex Singleton. Taylor and fellow draft pick Shaun Bradley are noticeably further down on the depth chart.
Eagles linebacker coach Ken Flajole said Taylor just needs more “time on the grass,” which is hard to come by this summer. Training camp is limited and there’s no preseason.
“He’s got really rare athletic ability, which will make him special as he grows in our defense,” Flajole said. “He just needs the competitive reps.”
Even though he’s learning a new defense and getting acclimated, his athleticism is still showing through. Taylor in the first eight days of real training camp has impressed his coaches and his fellow teammates.
“You definitely just notice his pure athleticism ability,” Edwards said. “I mean, you know, dude can run, he can run with the best of them. So I think, you know, once he gets more comfortable with the scheme – and it's natural for being a rookie – but once he gets comfortable with those things, he’ll be really, really dangerous. So, I'm excited to see kind of how he progresses and keeps going. Very hard worker too, so expect him to pick it up quick.”
Defense might take a while but if Taylor is going to contribute as a rookie, it’ll likely be on special teams. After all, a guy with his size, speed and athleticism is made for special teams and he’s been working on all four units so far.
And because guys like Gerry, Edwards and Riley will have expanded roles on defense this season, there are likely to be many special teams snaps for Taylor and Bradley. Gerry, Edwards and Riley were three of the top four Eagles with the most snaps on special teams in 2019. Now, all three are starters.
Taylor is even raw when it comes to special teams, but he has a lot for special teams coordinator Dave Fipp to work with.
“You can see him run, especially in a straight line,” Fipp said. “If he's chasing somebody, he closes the field really fast. And he's a great guy. He's working really hard. The game's important to him. He puts a lot of time into it. He wants to be a really good player. He's like a lot of these guys. He has a lot to learn, especially in our world on special teams, he hasn’t played quite as much of that stuff in his past.
“You guys all know his history in the game anyway but he's an exciting player. I think his upside in the future is really bright.”