Jamin Davis' quiet rookie season has Ron Rivera rethinking how to most effectively use the linebacker in future seasons for the Washington defense.
For much of the franchise's training camp and exhibition schedule in the summer, Rivera and coordinator Jack Del Rio gave Davis reps in the middle of the unit. In doing so, they threw the Kentucky product into a very demanding position, one that requires knowledge of the team's scheme as well as what the opponent is looking to do.
Once the games began to count, however, Davis was pushed out of the middle linebacker role — and often times out of the lineup almost entirely.
In Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft saw action on just 13 snaps, which tied his low on the year. He was given just 13 reps versus the New Orleans Saints and has had other contests with only 24, 27 and 27 plays so far.
When talking with the media on Monday, Rivera admitted it might be time for Washington to alter its view on what's best for Davis in the long run.
"I think that's something we got to really look at and see if it is better for him not to have the kind of pressures that the middle linebacker has on him," Rivera said on Zoom.
When Davis was selected on the first night of the draft, it was no secret that he was a raw prospect. Even so, his speed and coverage abilities appeared to be ideal tools for where pro football is heading.
As odd as it sounds now, Davis was actually mentioned as a sneaky Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate because of his traits and potential fit behind the Burgundy and Gold's strong front. He was expected to be Rivera's next top-tier defender.
But through 17 weeks, Davis has just one pass deflection, two tackles for loss, one sack, two quarterback hits, zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles. There have been far too many stretches where he's practically invisible, making no discernible impact on the action, positive or negative.
But Rivera, of course, isn't close to bailing on Davis.
"I think he's a young guy that's got a lot to learn," Rivera said. "I really do. I know the style of defense they played in college was different than things we asked him to do so there was a lot of learning that was involved in that."
In reviewing Sunday's tape, Rivera explained that he was pleased with what Davis did when Washington used him in sub packages as a weakside linebacker where he could run and chase members of Philadelphia's offense. David Mayo logged 40 snaps as the middle man, which allowed Cole Holcomb to slide over a spot and turn in a really solid afternoon in his own right.
"There were some really good things, I think, when you take the pressure off of young guys having to make decisions out on the field and try to control things," Rivera said. "I think it's a little something we learned about both [Davis and Holcomb]."
Those lineup adjustments might have helped Washington hold up in one December outing, yet they also aren't encouraging in terms of Davis' development.
If Mayo, who's bounced around the league since 2015, is the preferred option over Davis at this juncture, that's downright concerning.
None of this is meant to declare the 23-year-old a bust. Plenty of first-year players have rebounded in their second campaigns, Davis has the aforementioned athleticism that gives him an intriguing upside and, in terms of his personality, he's exceedingly mature.
Plus, if Rivera deems him to be more dangerous in a new role next season, maybe there'll be a rapid ascension for Davis. It'd be disappointing for him to move from the center of the defense to get the best of his ability, sure, but perhaps his skills can be better deployed elsewhere.
But still, in a year where Washington could truly use a couple more young pillars to be excited about moving forward, it's just not possible to include Davis in that category yet. He hasn't shown enough to deserve that consideration.
And when a first-round draft pick's coach is already thinking about changing that rookie's career path, angst about his status going forward is only natural.