Nothing about defensive lineman Raekwon Davis’ junior season sat well with him. The stats (5 1/2 tackles for a loss, 1 1/2 sacks), the approach (one influenced by his projected NFL Draft ranking) and the end result (a loss in the national championship game) were all things that didn’t set well with Davis.
Thus, he returned to the University of Alabama. The stats have yet to come together and the end result is yet to be determined, but the process has made the first five games of Davis’ senior season a success.
That resolve will face its toughest test of the season as No. 1 UA travels to No. 24 Texas A&M Saturday,
“He has been very good, he’s worked hard. Certainly tried to set a good example for some of the young guys that are playing around him,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “I’ve been pleased with his effort. He was banged up, he had a little shoulder there, didn’t miss any time. I think that bothered him a little bit in the last game but he should be healthy and ready to go. I think he has played a little more consistently this year than last year.”
That effort is yet to be rewarded with the statistics that reflect the best of Davis. Using Davis’ sophomore season as the standard — the standard he sets for himself — his 10 tackles for a loss in 14 games that year (0.71 per game) and 8 1/2 sacks (0.6 per game) are well ahead of his current paces, 0.5 tackles for a loss per game and without a sack in five games.
Granted, the true benchmarks for Davis’ performance may have moved since 2017. Davis says his job has not changed, but the defense being as young as it is thrusts him into a leadership role within his position group, one unlikely replicated by any other UA defender. Davis is the lone upperclassman in UA’s primary defensive rotation at the moment (with LaBryan Ray injured), currently joined by sophomore Phidarian Mathis and a trio of freshmen: D.J. Dale, Justin Eboigbe and Byron Young.
Then he fights double teams for their benefit.
Double teams came at Davis early and often as a junior, and they’ve been present so far this season. Given time to reflect and approach a new season, he decided his double team technique needed work. He has graded himself on a brutal scale — and passed.
“I just look at every snap. I evaluate myself after every snap, see did I step wrong, see did I put my head in the wrong gap, just like the little things,” Davis said. “It takes a lot of time, but I’m a veteran so I know if something wasn’t right.
“I improved a lot. On my double teams, how I pass rush, I feel like I improved. To other folks, they got they own opinions.”
Those opinions aren’t of Davis’ concern, because he knows his process is good. All that’s left are the stats and the end result.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson