In the wake of an embarrassing defeat to the Oakland Raiders, the Baltimore Ravens made a move to help add talent to a struggling secondary.
A minor move in the grand scheme of things, the Ravens shipped a seventh-round pick in the 2016 draft to the Miami Dolphins in return for third-year cornerback Will Davis.
Selected in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Utah State, Davis was projected to be a staple in Miami’s secondary, but he failed to ever latch on during his time with the Dolphins. Sparse playing time and a 2014 knee injury made Davis expendable, allowing the Ravens to take a chance on the young cornerback.
Given the cheap asking price, it is clear Davis was no longer valued by the Dolphins. But one team’s trash may be another team’s treasure, and perhaps Davis can step in and aid a middling group of coverage options in Baltimore.
What about Davis’ game gives hope that he can eventually contribute to the defense and make the trade worthwhile?
The main trait that jumps out is Davis’ ability to play press coverage. This is an attractive ability for any defense, and with Baltimore’s unsuccessful off-coverage tactics under Dean Pees, perhaps (hopefully) the cornerbacks will begin to line up closer to the wide receiver prior to the snap.
During the 2015 preseason, Davis’ first live action since midway through last season, he flashed his tendency to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and turn to run with them downfield. Along with that, Davis’ ball skills were on display.
Lined up at right cornerback – where he played throughout the preseason – Davis gives his receiver a jam at the line of scrimmage.
Notice how he is the only Dolphins cornerback to do so? That helps Davis in the long run. As the receiver releases off of Davis, he is the closest to the line of scrimmage of any Chicago Bears target.
That gives Davis the leg up from the get-go, and as the quarterback locks in on Davis’ receiver, the Bears player has little time to gain separation.
Davis successfully runs stride-for-stride downfield with the receiver, thus allowing him to completely block off any opportunity for the Bear to make a play on the football in the air.
What looks like a possible pass interference penalty is simply a solid play by Davis. While he does not turn his head to locate the football, he places himself in a position where he can seal off the receiver while not initiating enough contact to warrant a penalty flag.
Later in the preseason, Davis again employed press coverage technique, with an even more favorable outcome.
As the wide receiver releases off the line of scrimmage, Davis maintains his balance, which will allow him to follow the receiver to either side.
The receiver chooses the sideline route, and Davis effortlessly turns to match the route of his opponent.
Maintaining stride with the receiver downfield, Davis locates the ball in the air, positions himself properly and high-points the football for an impressive interception.
Listed at just 5’11, Davis plays with incredible length for his size and can use it to his advantage to make plays on the football.
For the affordable cost of a seventh-round pick, Davis could turn out to be a quality young developmental option for the secondary. In the near future, he takes the back seat to the likes of Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Kyle Arrington and even a healthy Rashaan Melvin.
However, Davis offers more ability in coverage right now than rookie Tray Walker, and with Webb struggling yet again this year, perhaps the veteran’s snap count could steadily decrease, opening the door for a player like Davis.
At 0-2 and in panic mode entering a three-game stretch against AFC North opponents, the Ravens simply cannot right the ship with a minor move such as the addition of Davis.
This is the type of trade that could have been made even if the Ravens were 2-0 at this point. With Davis still so young, the trade is more of a long-term fix than short-term improvement.
Adding Davis can turn out to be a low risk, high reward move.