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Could Washington end up with back-to-back defensive rookies of the year?

Washington Football Team Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

A year ago, Washington drafted Chase Young with the #2 overall pick in the draft; at the time, he was widely regarded as the best player in the draft and a generational talent. Expectations were sky high and as a rookie he met them. At the end of the season, he was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Washington Football Team v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This year, Jamin Davis was a late-riser among mock-drafters, with his reputation given a big boost by his pro-day results. Listen to what GM Martin Mayhew had to say about him:

“This guy just checked a whole bunch of boxes for us; an outstanding athlete, explosive athleticism, 11 for broad, 42 inch vertical, 6-foot-3 and a half, under 230 [pounds], ran under a 4.5 [40-yard dash]. He has all the physical attributes that you want.”

And while mock drafters may have been a bit late to the Jamin Davis party, post-draft, Ron Rivera laughed and dismissed any notion that Davis might have been overlooked by scouts and pushed back against the idea that Jamin Davis rose recently up NFL team draft boards. The head coach said that Davis was not a fast riser just because some people in the media hadn’t known about him. Martin Mayhew expanded on the theme, saying that scouts were pressing for him, and that Davis really popped on film when they reviewed his play at Kentucky.

Well, Rivera and Mayhew seem to be right. While a number of media analysts and TV talking heads declared in the post-draft analysis and grading that Washington had ‘reached for need’ in picking Jamin Davis, he has emerged this week as the betting favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Davis, of course, has his own incredible athleticism in his favor, but he will also be aided by playing in a defense that was rated 5th overall in 2020 and, with the addition of Davis and veteran free agent William Jackson III, seems to have gotten better.

Washington has used a first-round draft pick to select a defensive player in five consecutive drafts:

  • 2021 LB Jamin Davis
  • 2020 DE Chase Young
  • 2019 DE Montez Sweat
  • 2018 DT Daron Payne
  • 2017 DT Jonathan Allen

While draft status isn’t a guarantee of NFL success, the fact is that the four players drafted from ‘17-’20 that form Washington’s front line have all met or exceeded expectations. The biggest defensive weakness a season ago for Washington was at the linebacker position. The drafting of Davis provides the coaching staff with a big, athletic linebacker with the physical skills to play every down and every second-level position on the defense.

Emilee Fails

Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio and linebackers coach Steve Russ have both praised Davis’ intelligence and instinctive play on display during OTAs and minicamp.

Talking to reporters, Russ said that Davis is passionate about the sport in meetings and that he cares about learning what’s happening with the entire defense, not just his own assignments. This is important for a linebacker, who is in the middle of everything, and especially so if Davis is to someday become the defensive signal caller.

Russ also said that Davis has been spending time at the MLB position since that is the spot he played at Kentucky and Russ believes it is important to create some familiarity for an incoming rookie, but he stressed that Davis has the ability to play all the linebacker positions.

Bookmakers, whose living depends on a deep understanding of the sport, seem to be buying what the Washington coaches are selling. They understand that Davis can play sideline to sideline and never come off the field.

Chris Trapasso, a draft analyst and writer for CBS Sports, agrees that Jamin Davis should be the front runner for DROY.

Davis was the Zach Wilson of the linebacker group, an out-of-seemingly-nowhere one-year wonder whose film was so juicy he ascended from complete obscurity to the first round. Davis is a towering linebacker with the explosion and athletic fluidity needed to hold up in coverage in today’s NFL.

Another reason he’s my DROY pick — the Washington defensive line is going to keep his jersey as clean as if he didn’t even step foot on the field. In 2020, journeyman Jon Bostic led the team with 118 tackles. Not only will [Jamin Davis] hit the 100-tackle threshold, he’ll get plenty of opportunities to disrupt on pass plays. And Davis will. Frequently.

Expectations have been rising since the start of the year for this young and gifted linebacker from Kentucky. A year ago, Chase Young rose to the challenge of high expectations. Washington fans will be watching the 2021 season with great interest to see if Jamin Davis can do the same.