But while Former Free Agent Rookie Makes Good and Earns a Big-Time Role is a terrific storyline for fans and media, it doesn’t feel right to Davis.
Believing he had made good and earned a big-time role wasn’t what got Davis to his current situation. And even if he is one of the feel-good stories of Jaguars 2014 Training Camp, he’s not going to walk with that in his step.
“I’m definitely not ready to say, ‘I’ve made it,’” Davis said as the Jaguars prepared to play the Detroit Lions in Week 3 of the 2014 NFL preseason at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“Maybe that’s just how I’m thinking, with my first couple of years on the practice squad. I just want to stay in the moment right now, and just focus on getting better.”
How far has Davis come since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2012? Since spending parts of that season and 2013 on the practice squad?
How impressive has Davis been in 2014 training camp?
People aren’t talking about him as a good training camp story anymore nearly as much as a guy who has a significant role on an increasingly deep Jaguars defensive line.
“He shows he can rush inside, and he also has given our tackles some problems on the edge,” Jaguars defensive line coach Todd Wash said. “He’s a technician, and he knows he has to be technician. We’re very, very pleased with Ryan right now.”
And make no mistake:
Davis absolutely has a significant role: one of the team’s top four Leo pass rushers, a critical position in Head Coach Gus Bradley’s defense. He moved off the practice squad in mid-November last season, clinching a late-November victory at Houston with a late-game interception, and then registering a game-clinching sack at home against Houston two weeks later. He became integral during that time in the team’s three-Leo lightning package and remains so, lining up next to defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and providing penetration as an inside pass rusher.
Davis considers playing inside like lining up in a phone booth, but in the best way possible. Get him one-on-one with a guard in a pass-rushing situation, he figures, and the advantage is all his. He’s a 6-feet-2, 260-pounder whose strengths are speed and quickness, and Davis likes the matchup.
“Your decision-making is right now,” he said of rushing from the inside, snapping his fingers, eyes excited. “You’re not on the edge where the tackle has a little more time.”
He snapped his fingers again. “Against a guard, it’s like, ‘Right now,’” he said. “I just like putting that pressure on him.”
His reaction when he is moved inside?
“Let’s go,” he said. “You’ve got (fellow Leos Andre) Branch and (Chris) Clemons, and you’ve got Sen’Derrick in there. We work together in the hopes that one of us gets free. If anybody gets sack on that line, everybody’s done their job. It’s a great thing.”
When discussing pass rushing, yes, Davis gets excited. That’s in contrast to when asked if he realizes how far he has come in a short time. Yes, he knows his story is one of overcoming odds. He predates Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell, and not only has he survived the transition, he has thrived. But when it comes to reveling in that story, that’s left to his mother, Precious Davis.
“She reads the blogs and says, ‘Did you read this? Did you see the interview?’” he said with a smile. “I try to stay away from it. I don’t want to get consumed with that part of it. I know how this game goes.”
That remains Davis’ attitude as the 2014 season approaches. Yes, it appears he has solidified a role in the lightning package, but he also is less than a year removed from the tenuous existence of the practice squad, so when Bradley preaches that the NFL’s most dangerous words are, “I got it,” it’s a concept Davis very much grasps.
“I take that to heart,” he said. “You’ve never got it.”
Instead, Davis said he approaches each day savoring the moment. He thought when Bradley got hired the defense might be a perfect fit, and it has played out that way. He thought then Bradley first got hired that the head coach’s daily mantra of competition might be a perfect fit, too.
“That’s just how I play,” he said. “I compete every day and that’s all I’ve done since I’ve been here.”
And if anyone wants to complicate that approach by asking him to revel in what he has done so far … well, that reveling stuff just isn’t his thing.
“I have to let that go in one ear and out the other,” he said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I have to keep the attitude that got me here. The moment I lose that is the moment I have to stop playing ball.”
Considering how far this feel-good story has come, that moment doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon.