Jarrad Davis understood it more this season. The second-year linebacker picked up more of the nuances, grasped more of what opposing offenses were going to do. It didn’t always show up that way on the field -- not for Davis, not for his Detroit Lions teammates -- but the progress for him, it was there.
And he figures it’s only going to improve as he grows. For the Lions, it kind of has to.
"I understand a lot more about what’s going on on the field than I did last year, and it kind of, it’s more frustrating now when I make mistakes," Davis said toward the end of the 2018 season. "Just because, like, when I see something, I’m able to put two and two together and say, ‘Hey, I should have known that was coming.’
"Versus last year, I would be in situations and might not completely understand it until it was explained after the mistake was made."
It helped make him better in coverage than he was as a rookie. He saw runs develop faster than he did in 2017. And as the Lions expanded his role as the 2018 season went along, it allowed the 24-year-old to find a comfort level as a pass-rusher.
Davis tripled his sack numbers this past season, going from two as a rookie to six in 2018. Everything else, statistically, remained about the same. He defended five passes in 2018 after three in 2017. He had 100 tackles last season after making 96 as a rookie.
But the Lions, in Matt Patricia’s new scheme, moved Davis around more. They tried to find the best possible spot for him. And while he’s still expected to man the middle of the defense for now -- the spot he’s been in since his first snap with Detroit -- it could give him more versatility in the future. He just has to improve a bit at everything first.
"I can definitely get better as a pass-rusher. I can still improve in coverage, continue to improve as a tackler," Davis said. "If I want to be labeled as a leader on this team, continue to improve as a leader, holding myself accountable in situations where it’s just me and myself in the room and there’s nobody else.
"What am I doing to get better as a player? What am I doing to get better as a teammate for the guys around me? I just need to make the right choices so that when I do come in this building, it’s second nature and not just something that I’m putting on a front for."
The leadership piece might end up being more important than ever in 2019 with the departure of Glover Quin, whom the team released earlier this month with one year left on his contract. Quin had been the leader of the secondary and the most respected player on the team’s defense.
With him gone, someone will have to fill that void as a dominant presence on the defense. Davis had already begun to do that. It’s now something he’ll be looked at to handle even more.
Davis looked at the 2018 season as the year the Lions needed to get things in order following the coaching change from Jim Caldwell to Patricia. He didn’t expect that at first, but that’s how he’s using it now.
"This is a work in progress every single day," Davis said. "You’ve got to keep molding this thing. You’ve got to keep working it. There’s going to be times where it’s going to look ground and it’s going to fall down. You got to go right back at it and collect everything that you’ve got. You got to go back at it and say this worked, this worked, this didn’t work, this didn’t work, throw this out, put this in.
"It’s just a continuous work in progress."
That can be said for both him and the Detroit Lions as a whole.