Washington Football Team 2021 Draft Review: Jamin Davis

Jamin Davis
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After losing four of their last five games, the Washington Football Team missed the playoffs for the fifth time in six years as they finished 7-10 in the 2021 NFL season. Washington began the season at 2-6, but rattled off four wins in a row, including a signature win against the defending Super Bowl Champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But, the Burgundy and Gold lost four straight divisional games, which ended their postseason hopes. 

One of the defining moments of this season may have come before the season: the draft. It was Ron Rivera’s first draft with Washington with his newly constructed front office with Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney after the departure of fan-favorite Kyle Smith. The 2020 draft class for Washington looked to be a resounding success with the star-destined Chase Young, seventh-round steal Kamren Curl, and reliable starter Antonio Gibson. While the draft still seems to be an excellent haul, the disappointing 2021 season by Chase Young and poor quarterback play are raising doubts about Washington’s use of the second overall pick in the 2020 draft.

In 2021, Washington had an opportunity to select their signal-caller of the future, but they decided to stay put at the 19th slot, and selected Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis. Here is a review of the rookie seasons of Washington’s first pick: Jamin Davis. This is not a “grade” of Davis, as this can not be determined until years down the road, but an observation based on his 2021 season.

Washington Football Team Draft Review 2021: Jamin Davis

Review of the 2021 Season

With their first selection in the 2021 draft, the Washington Football Team bolstered their front seven once again by selecting Jamin Davis. Washington’s linebacker position was a major weakness in 2020 as they lacked a reliable sideline-to-sideline linebacker to take advantage of an exceptional defensive line. Davis started just one season at Kentucky, accumulating 102 tackles and three interceptions. He was considered raw coming out of college, but was the favorite to start at the WILL linebacker spot with Jon Bostic at the MIKE and Cole Holcomb as the SAM. However, an early season-ending injury to Bostic changed these plans. 

Davis started eight games on the season, mostly at the MIKE position alongside Cole Holcomb and Landon Collins, who played much closer to the line of scrimmage later in the season. However, Davis struggled mightily in his first pro season. He accumulated 76 tackles and had just one sack on the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Davis graded at a lowly 44.5 on the season. This play culminated in an odd Week 17 game for the Washington Football Team as Davis played just 13 snaps as journeyman linebacker David Mayo played the majority of the snaps. 

Throughout the season, Davis displayed flashes of excellence, where he showed his sheer athletic ability. Many of these flashes came in coverage, which was one of Davis’s strengths coming out of Kentucky. He also made a fair share of tackles in the open field, another encouraging sign for the young linebacker. 

But, a common theme for Davis on the season was being slow to diagnose plays, which often left him out of position. While Davis usually made the most of his opportunities when he was in position, he was often hesitant to hit holes and take advantage of his plus athleticism. 

Playing Out of Position

As mentioned earlier, the ideal linebacking corps for the Washington Football Team was Jon Bostic at the MIKE, Cole Holcomb as the SAM, and Jamin Davis at the WILL. This would allow Davis to ease into the starting lineup as he came out of Kentucky as a raw player, starting just one season. It could also allow defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to use Davis creatively, such as on blitzes or in coverage, taking advantage of his elite athleticism. 

However, these plans took a hit in Week 4, when Jon Bostic tore his pectoral against the Atlanta Falcons. This forced Davis to play the middle linebacker position, a tall task for a rookie player. It forced Davis to play the sideline-to-sideline role that he was not ready for in his rookie season. Head Coach Ron Rivera offered a reflection on Davis’s rookie season as he said, “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.” This has ramifications for next season, both the season and the upcoming off-season.

While Ron Rivera did not make any promises regarding Davis’s exact role next season, he did explain why David Mayo played the majority of the snaps in the Week 17 affair. He asserted that Mayo was a pure MIKE linebacker, which is why he received the bulk of the snaps in their Week 17 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. This moved Davis to the weak side, where Rivera hinted he may play next year. 

Looking Ahead to 2022

The 2021 season for Jamin Davis can be seen in two ways. First, Davis could be observed as one who is confined to a weak-side role, which begs the question of why Washington didn’t select a versatile player like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. On the other hand, it could offer hope for the future as Davis was played out of position this season, which could spur a sophomore leap for the 23-year old linebacker. In addition, some may argue that he could turn into a MIKE a few years down the road. 

However, the primary takeaway from Jamin Davis’s rookie season is not an evaluation of him, but of the football team itself: the MIKE linebacker for Washington is not currently on the roster. This is especially important given the Burgundy and Gold’s massive hole at the quarterback position, which may take significant draft capital to fix. It could mean that Washington looks to free agency to patch the linebacker position. The 2022 free agency class is headlined by De’Vondre Campbell, Foyesade Oluokun, and Anthony Walker Jr. 

While the selection of Jamin Davis may seem like a reach at this time, he has an opportunity to silence the critics with a big 2022 season. 

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