At this year's NFL Combine, Carlos Davis ran one of the fastest 40' yard times ever for a defensive lineman over 300 lbs.
For many, this was considered an incredible feat; yet for those familiar with his body of work, it was just another day at the office. Being a high-level collegiate athlete is no easy task, but to be one in two different sports, is indicative of the uniqueness of Davis as an athlete.
Though Davis did not see any action on the field during his redshirt year, he was making waves in track and field, placing seventh in the discus event at the 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. A year later, Davis in all 13 games, registering 24 total tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss. While making waves on the gridiron, he also NCAA West Preliminary Round after a 10th place finish at the Big Ten Championships that year. In his junior year, he took his accomplishment to another level. On field, his numbers to 42 total tackles, 2.5 sacks with four tackles for loss. On the track, he earned honorable-mention All-American, by qualifying for the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the discus. Injuries derailed his production in his junior year, yet he managed to register 27 tackles, a sack, and five pass breakups; the second-most ever by a Cornhusker defensive lineman. While earning honorable Big Ten mention on the field, he completed his track and field career as a four year letterwinner. He qualified for his second straight NCAA Championship, where he earned All-America honors by finishing 16th overall.
What is notable about Davis when watching on film, is the manner in which he was able to incorporate certain aspects of track and field skills onto the gridiron. For the Steelers, who have a large number of athletic defenders, Davis fits that mold perfectly.
Handling Double Teams
In situations like this, proper pad level is essential. His success on this play against Purdue can be attributed to the following reasons:
Firstly, his ability to stay in-between the right guard and the center. By doing so, he was able to keep his weight centered; had he favored one side or the other, it would have affected his balance. Secondly, his hand placement as he was able to keep his hands underneath the shoulder pads of each linemen. Thirdly, his low pad level, making him difficult for both linemen to move Davis backwards. As the ball is released, Davis is in the right position to time his jump and deflect the pass. His poise and technique is excellent throughout this sequence.
Motor And Mobility
Davis's mobility is perhaps his strongest attribute. Considering his performance at this year's NFL Combine, Davis was one of the most mobile interior linemen of the entire draft. Coming from a track and field background, Davis is well-conditioned and possesses good range for a lineman his stature.
In this sequence against Maryland, Davis is seen positioned on the left side as a 3-technique defensive tackle. As the ball is snapped, Davis engages with right guard as the zone blocking scheme is being executed by the Maryland offensive line. As the quarterback completes the toss to his running back on the left side, he disengages and closes in on the ball carrier. Displaying impressive closing speed, Davis is able to catch the Maryland running back, and in combination with the Nebraska defensive back coming downhill, both are able to jar the ball loose which is picked up by one of the Nebraska linebackers.
Getting Pressure On The Quarterback
During his time with Nebraska, Davis did not accumulate a high number of sacks; his most notable number was 2.5 in his sophomore year. With this noted, Davis has displayed the potential to become more productive in this aspect, due to his natural strength and excellent technique.
In his sequence against Wisconsin, Davis is seen positioned as a 3-technique defensive tackle on the right side. When the ball snapped, Davis quickly gains ideal hand placement underneath the Wisconsin guard's pad. Employing a combination of lower body strength and proper pad level, he drives the opposing linemen back into the quarterback; the sack was a simple end result of his domination in this one-on-one battle. In all, it is an impressive display of technique and raw power.
Despite being taken late in the NFL Draft, Davis' game film suggests a player who has a higher ceiling than his draft position suggest. What makes this an ideal situation, is the fact that he will have the opportunity to work with one of the best defensive line coaches in Karl Dunbar. For a defensive line in need of meaningful, new editions, Davis is the type of player that could contribute sooner than many would expect.