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Demario Davis Has Brought the Swagger Back to the Linebacking Corps

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The Saints have lacked a badass linebacker since Jonathan Vilma. They have signed many in free agency looking for one, and they may have finally hit the jackpot.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only been half a season, but Demario Davis might already be the Saints’ best free agent linebacker signing in the Payton/Loomis era. Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma set a very high bar of course, yet if Davis continues to perform on the same trajectory throughout his three year contract with the Saints, it appears all he needs is time to prove his case.

I’m not joking. Other than Cam Jordan, Davis has been the Saints defense’s best player through their first eight games. He covers tight ends. He doesn’t allow yards after contact and stuffs the run. He’s a great tackler in the middle and in the open field. He’s even getting to the quarterback now that Dennis Allen has fit his scheme to Davis’ strengths.

Manti Te’o was a healthy scratch against the Rams, but Davis played so well, I didn’t even notice the Saints sat Te’o. The Saints defense held Todd Gurley to a season low 68 yards after he had rushed for over 100 in each of his first eight games this season.

In fact, the Saints lead the league in rush yards allowed per game (76 yards), and haven’t surrendered over 100 yards rushing in a game since their week one loss to Tampa Bay. Davis has been a huge part of that team performance.

At the season’s halfway mark, he’s leading the team in tackles with 43. He’s on pace to finish with 86. He won NFC Defensive Player of the Week after an 11 tackle and two sack game against the New York Giants. Though he hasn’t filled the stat sheet as much since week 4, his steady presence in the middle of the field has been easy to notice.

Fellow Saints linebacker Craig Robertson has come up with the perfect description of Davis’ play. “That boy a dog!” Robertson yelled from his locker, following the Giants game. “56 a dog! He a dog! That’s his personal stats: Dog.”

The Saints have been looking for a difference making linebacker for a long time. Many failed to exceed those expectations including Curtis Lofton, A.J. Klein, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, David Hawthorne, Parys Haralson, and Dannell Ellerbe. There has never been a player that cements the defense together and bridges the gap between the defensive line and the defensive backfield.

Davis has the tools, the durability, the humility, and the desire to anchor the linebacking corps much like Scott Fujita and Vilma did during the Saints Super Bowl run in 2009. It’s too soon to talk playoffs and beyond, but Davis’ reliable production helps bolster the Saints’ defensive swagger.

And I don’t think I’ve seen this much swagger on this Saints defense since 2009.