Carl Davis might be the latest Patriots defensive player to find a career resurgence in New England.
When the Patriots signed Davis off of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad, the addition barely registered on the Boston media Richter scale since the acquisition happened in the middle of New England’s locker room COVID-19 outbreak.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn’t exactly throwing Davis a welcoming party when asked about the 6-foot-5, 320-pound defensive tackle in a video conference call.
“Yeah, he’s got some experience and he’s available,” Belichick said last month.
It also didn’t help that Davis suffered a concussion in his first week of practice with the Patriots and missed New England’s next two games.
But the Patriots are 2-0 with Davis in their lineup, and no, we’re not saying he’s the cause for New England’s sudden upswing. But the Patriots pretty desperately needed a nose tackle in the middle of their defense once it became obvious that Beau Allen wasn’t going to play this season. Davis is a nose tackle. He’s an immediate improvement over the players New England was putting in the middle of its defense because they weren’t nose tackles.
The Patriots have let up just 180 combined rushing yards over their last two games. They were allowing an average of 140.4 rushing yards per game over the first eight weeks of the season when they were downright atrocious against the run. New England is letting up just 3.9 yards per carry over the last two weeks. The Patriots were allowing 4.6 yards per carry through the first eight weeks of the season. Again, atrocious.
Davis has only been on the field for 12 of those 46 run defense snaps over the last two games. He’s also been used as a pass rusher on 19 snaps. The Patriots are allowing just 1.46 yards per carry when Davis is on the field and 4.3 yards per carry when he’s off of the field.
Those are fun stats in a small sample size that don’t tell nearly a full story. Davis was on the field Sunday for two botched snaps that resulted in negative yards. But he’s also more adept at two-gapping in the middle of the Patriots’ defense than most other defensive linemen on the roster. He’s not exactly Ted Washington-, Vince Wilfork-, Alan Branch- or Danny Shelton-sized, but he can eat up space.
We’re not ready to say the Patriots’ run defense is fixed because it looked stout against the New York Jets in Week 9 and during a monsoon against the Ravens in Week 10. But they’ve certainly looked much better.
“I think it’s been great so far,” Davis said of his time in New England. “I’m enjoying it here. My main goal right now is pretty much to earn the trust of my coaches and teammates. I’m focused on that right now. So far, I feel like it’s been going good. You’ve got to keep pushing forward.”
Davis was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Iowa by Baltimore. He’s played just 38 games since entering the NFL, and 28 of those came in 2015 and 2017 with the Ravens. Since he was released by Baltimore in 2018, he’s kicked around the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Jaguars.
Davis reunites with Lawrence Guy on the Patriots after the two played next to one another on the Ravens. It’s also a return to his roots, since he believes Iowa and the Patriots have similar expectations for their players.
“I think that’s why it worked to my favor here,” Davis said. “The Iowa program was a very physical program and it was tough and I think it actually — I feel like that’s why I’m so comfortable here. I feel good here. It’s just every day you have to put in a hard day’s work. That’s kudos to Coach (Kirk) Ferentz and his program at Iowa. I see a lot of the similarities between here and Iowa. I think that’s why I felt right at home.”
Davis wouldn’t be the first defender to bounce around the league before finding success in New England. John Simon, the Patriots’ starting outside linebacker, was out of the NFL when New England signed him in 2018. Current safety Terrence Brooks was hardly used on defense before coming to New England.
The 28-year-old will be nothing more than an early-down role player for the Patriots this season, but he’s also the only player currently on New England’s roster who has proven he can fill that role so well.