Last year, a splintered Jets locker room had difficulty finding a
unifying voice to stop the finger-pointing from all directions.
After an offseason of more dirty laundry, head coach Rex Ryan is looking toward rookie Demario Davis to step up and be one of the new
voices of the team this season.
The Jets addressed an area of need on their
team by selecting the 23-year-old linebacker out of
Arkansas State with their third-round pick, but they also have a player to groom to be the type of leader they needed last season. Following the
team’s mini-camp session last Friday, Ryan gave the No. 77 pick of the
draft the highest praise imaginable at the position. Ryan invoked the
name of Ray Lewis as a comparison.
“When he talks to you, wow, he’s
really an impressive person and he gets it. He’s a team guy and he’s
not an individual guy,” Ryan said.
“He’s all about the team and all
about business and these guys, it’s amazing when you look at all these
guys, so many of them have some amazing stories and when you get to know
him, he’s got quite a story of his own as well.”
Davis didn’t seem
to be awed by the comparison. The Lewis comparison has been his goal all along. Davis says he admires the play of former Giants legend Lawrence Taylor and Lewis.
“If you want to be compared to somebody or kind of talked about in the same sentence, it’s a guy like Ray Lewis,” Davis said. “He’s a guy I want to model my game after.”
Davis was a first-team Sunbelt Conference selection as a senior and performed well in the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine.
Training locally at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, N.J., Davis shot
up the draft board with a surprising combination of speed -- he ran a
4.61 second 40-yard dash at the combine -- and strength.
In many ways, he’s a freak athlete. In his senior year in college, Arkansas State had Davis play situational tight end.
“I played a little receiver in high school and they put a couple packages in to catch the ball on offense,” Davis said. “We had two packages that we had to mismatch the other team.”
probably too soon to begin penciling Davis in as a two-way player for
the Jets, who did utilize cornerback Antonio Cromartie as a wide
receiver at certain junctions during the early portions of last year. He
acknowledges that first he needs to understand the Jets’ 3-4
defense where he will likely slot in as an outside linebacker.
The expectations were
already high for Davis, but now Ryan’s hyperbole will ratchet up the intensity even
more. While the head coach painted with broad strokes in praising the
rookie linebacker’s moxie, Davis isn’t ready to be a voice in the Jets
At least not quite yet.
“It goes back to if there was
ever a situation or an opportunity to lead, I always wanted it. Since I
was young it was something that burned inside of me. But along the way
I’ve learned how to lead,” Davis said.
“Knowing how to lead and when to lead, sometimes the best way to lead is to follow.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news.