September 13, 2023
In the aftermath of the Philadelphia Eagles' Week 1 win over the New England Patriots, the player I was interested in taking a closer look at was Jordan Davis.
During training camp, it can sometimes be tough to evaluate space-eating nose tackles when there's no tackling in practice, and it's not as if Davis played all that much in the preseason games, so this was really the first fair look at what can be expected of the big man in 2023.
Davis is kind of an important player, seeing the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick and two fifth-round picks to move up from 15th overall to 13th overall to select him in the 2022 NFL Draft. The short-short version of his evening in Foxborough? His play was very encouraging, but not without a concern.
On the day, Davis was credited with six tackles, a half-sack, and a crucial forced fumble that led to the Eagles' only offensive touchdown on the day. I cut up 11 noteworthy plays, and labeled them each, with commentary thereafter. Watch that below, and then I'll meet you on the other side. Good? Good.
Jordan Davis vs. the Patriots, Week 1, 2023 pic.twitter.com/w8ymm0VcnX— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski2) September 13, 2023
OK, here's what I saw:
• Play 1: Davis shows good hustle and impressive athleticism for a man his size, and he is able to punch the ball out of Ezekiel Elliott's grasp. As noted above, this play led to a short field for the offense, and the only offensive touchdown on the day. Splash play.
"I didn't even know what happened until they told me when I got to the sideline," Davis said after the game. "I thought I got a TFL, but just doing good fundamentals, grabbing at the ball, securing the tackle, and then boom, whatever happens, happens."
• Play 2: Davis overpowers 62 in the rain, and 62 hangs on for dear life and even tries to trip Davis after he was beaten.
• Play 3: Davis fights through the double team, gets in on the tackle, and also sends the back backwards once he gets there.
"I knew that once it started raining they were going to run it a little bit more, and just do your job," Davis said. "Put your hard hat on and do your job."
• Play 4: The back is down by the time Davis gets there, but he can get horizontal when necessary, and he tramples 68 along the way.
• Play 5: Really good. Davis bench presses the center while two-gapping, cuts off any possibility of a backside cut, and gets in on the tackle when the back just tries to plow forward.
• Play 6: Davis is lined up on the LG's outside shoulder, and this is a nice, quick inside pass rush move, but the ball is out quickly.
• Play 7: Davis is two-gapping again. He locks out 68 with his left arm, then disengages when he knows where the run is going and gets in on the tackle. Again, really good.
• Play 8: This was the play after Rhamondre Stevenson's catch and run for 32 yards. You can see that Davis is going half-effort here, which is still good enough to hold his ground. When Stevenson runs right into him, Davis does throw a violent right arm at the ball. But it's pretty clear that he's tired, and Stevenson gains 5 yards. This was late in the game, but also only the third play of the drive.
• Play 9: On the next play, Davis got a 1-on-1 pass rush opportunity and he took the play off. As a prospect coming out of Georgia, conditioning was knock on Davis' game, and it showed up at times his rookie season. It was reported by John Clark at the start of training camp that Davis looked a lot better in his conditioning test than he did a year ago.
I’m told Jordan Davis did a lot better on his conditioning test this year. I hear his conditioning heading into his second year is on another level now. He looks great.— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) July 27, 2023
He worked real hard at the facility all offseason. pic.twitter.com/ny6sIqDvo3
It should be noted that Davis played 33 snaps (44 percent of the snaps), the most in any one game in his career, both in total number of snaps and percentage of snaps. But it's also worth noting that Fletcher Cox, Jalen Carter, and Milton Williams all played more snaps, and didn't take any off as far as I could tell.
At over 340 pounds, of course Davis is going to be more prone to fatigue, but conditioning could be an ongoing obstacle for him to overcome.
• Play 10: Again, I think he's tired here, but the effort is fine. He gets knocked off balance on a double, and still gets in on the tackle.
• Play 11: Davis finishes he day strongly. Josh Sweat beats 77 on the outside rush, but when Mac Jones tries to step up Davis is around 6 yards up the field and he cleans up.
Overall: Davis clogged up running lanes all afternoon against a Pats offense that wanted to be run-heavy. On the day, Stevenson and Elliott combined for 19 carries for 54 yards, partly because of Davis' play in the middle of the Eagles' defense. He was a crucial player in this matchup, and he played very well. He also flashed some pass rush ability that wasn't always apparent in his rookie season. And, of course, he made a huge play on the forced fumble. That said, the Eagles' staff may have to be wary of Davis' snap counts and energy levels throughout games going forward so that he's not taking crucial plays off in the fourth quarter.
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