We’re back with our second installment from Football Outsiders, which focuses on some specific questions we asked surrounding the New Orleans Saints. Sticking with the defensive side of things, we turn our attention to a big free agent pickup from free agency in Demario Davis.
Demario Davis enters the fold after a long stint with the Jets. What are the areas he excelled most at last season, and where would the Saints get the biggest return from him?
Scott Kacsmar: Davis is coming off a career year where he was very active with the Jets. Not only did he have 83 stops (second in the league), but he had 19 hurries and 5.0 sacks. That’s about the same pass-rushing production that the Saints got from Craig Robertson, A.J. Klein, and Manti Te’o combined (19.5 hurries and 4.0 sacks). Davis also had excellent coverage metrics, though that’s not consistent at all with previous seasons of his career. So it’s tough to tell if he was just going all out for one last shot at a big contract before he turns 30, but hopefully playing for a Super Bowl contender will continue to bring out his best in New Orleans.
Davis was rewarded by the Saints with a 3-year, $24 million contract that came with $18 million guaranteed. When it comes to Dennis Allen’s defense, Davis has been used in nickel sets along with being primarily a weak side linebacker. Davis has versatility to be the man in the middle or play strong side, but his speed and coverage skills are where the Saints will benefit from him the most.
With injuries to Alex Anzalone, A.J. Klein, and Nathan Stupar last season, the Saints had to primarily rely on Manti Te’o and Craig Robertson, who filled in nicely, all things considered. This season favors a starting rotation of A.J. Klein (strong side), Manti Te’o (middle), and Davis (weak side) with Stupar, Robertson, and Anzalone likely as the backups.
The hope is that Davis, who turns 30 in January, pencils in as a missing link that Dennis Allen and the Saints defense have been looking for for quite some time. Perhaps his durability helped New Orleans make Davis a key addition, as he has not missed a single game since entering the league in 2012. Being led by second-year linebacker coach Mike Nolan, things are looking up for the Saints defense with Davis in the fold.