The New Orleans Saints signing of Demario Davis in the 2018 off-season didn’t garner much attention at the time. While the acquisition filled an obvious need at linebacker, Davis was changing teams for the third year in a row and there were doubts about the completeness of his game.
A year and a half later, Davis has grown into one of the Saints most important pieces both on and off the field. Last season, Davis earned the team’s defensive MVP honors after recording 110 combined tackles (11 for loss), 11 quarterback hits, five sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Davis has also grown into a valuable team leader, the extent of which was on display prior to the Saints 33-27 upset over the Seattle Seahawks. Normally Drew Brees gives a rousing speech to the team prior to each game. With Brees out of action, Davis stepped in with his quarterback’s permission and did not disappoint.
Davis followed up his sermon with a dominant performance, leading his defense to its best overall performance of the season. Here’s a closer look at his most impactful plays against Seattle.
Demario Davis Steps Up in Key Moments Against Seattle Seahawks
Tackle for Loss on Fourth and One
Davis made the perfect pre-snap read to end a late-second quarter Seahawks drive.
Seattle showed run as they brought their H-back in motion to the strong side of the formation. Davis signaled to linebacker Kiko Alonso in response, and they both shifted left. As running back Chris Carson took the handoff, the left guard swung right and found Alonso in the backfield. He couldn’t secure a block on the linebacker though, forcing Carson inside.
Meanwhile, Davis moved above the gap and waited for Carson to make his cut. As Carson tried to avert Alonso, Davis crashed down and halted the running back. Cameron Jordan and Marcus Williams helped Davis complete the tackle.
This turnover on downs gave the Saints offense good field position with just over two minutes left in the half. They capitalized with an Alvin Kamara screen pass for a touchdown seven plays later.
Another Turnover on Downs
Third and Six
Seattle found themselves in a desperate situation down 20 points late in the third quarter. With time running out, the Seahawks decided to run in a third and six situation already knowing they would leave the offense out on fourth down.
Seattle tried to sell a pass with a single-back shotgun formation. Instead, they ran a draw, and the Saints looked out-matched with just five men in the box. The defensive ends went on outside rushes as Seattle hoped, opening up big holes inside. Carson took the handoff and started right.
Demario Davis resisted the temptation to pursue Carson initially and stayed above his gap instead. Sure enough, Carson cut back inside and Davis came down and made the tackle just past the line of scrimmage.
Demario Davis on Fourth and Five
On the ensuing fourth and five play Seattle came out with four wide receivers in a trips left shotgun formation. New Orleans showed blitz with Davis in a two-point stance to the left of Jordan. New Orleans sent five rushers as wide receiver Tyler Lockett broke free on a corner route to the end zone. He beat nickel back P.J. Williams with a double-move at the line and quickly gained several steps on the defender.
The route concept worked perfectly, with the two outer receivers cutting inside and pulling their respective defenders well away from the end zone. All quarterback Russell Wilson needed was time to make the throw, but a well-disguised stunt by Jordan and Davis caused him to overthrow the pass.
Davis and Jordan both started on an outside rush. The right tackle prepared to engage Jordan while Carson stayed in the backfield to block and eyed Davis. As Jordan started his bend around the corner, Davis cut inside and put Carson in an awkward position. He had to step back to avoid the right tackle and was late in getting to the B gap to meet Davis.
Davis met the off-balance Carson at full acceleration and knocked him over. Wilson felt the pressure and got the throw off just before getting hit, but he put too much air under it. The pass fell incomplete after an admirable attempt by Lockett to catch it with one hand.
Demario Davis Throughout the Game
While Davis made the most visible impact stopping runs and blitzing, he also had an excellent game in coverage. He appeared to surrender just one catch, a dump off to tight end Will Dissly for four yards in the third quarter. It actually looked like Davis managed to break up the pass, but the short catch was not worth challenging.
The intensity and passion Davis displayed in his pregame speech showed up throwout the game. He was in on nine tackles, the most of which were powerful hits. Additionally, Davis played a big part in a consistent Saints pass rush. He pressured Wilson on multiple plays and recorded one quarterback hit.
This is the type of performance New Orleans will need from Davis the rest of the season. Alex Anzalone, their second-most valuable linebacker had season-ending shoulder surgery last week. Six-year veteran A.J. Klein so far has struggled with increased action in Anzalone’s absence. Alonso could develop into an asset, but he was acquired just before the regular season and is still assimilating into the defense.
With this in mind, Demario Davis is currently one of the most irreplaceable players on the team. His success and leadership will need to continue for the Saints to overcome their growing list of injuries and reach the postseason.
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