The New Orleans Saints may have ended their year in disappointing manner, but many of their stars had standout seasons. The New Orleans defense would take center stage in the team's success, particularly when quarterback Drew Brees was sidelined for five games with a thumb injury early in the year. With Brees out, many of the team's leaders on both sides of the ball also found themselves in different roles. Today, we look back on not only one of those leaders but one of the NFL's best defensive players in 2019.
Linebacker Demario Davis solidified himself as one of the Saints most important defensive players in his second season with the team. Davis joined New Orleans as a free agent in 2018 and would immediately upgrade not only the linebacking corps but the entire defense. The eight year veteran quickly took on the role of a team leader but would shine in that role with Brees sidelined. Davis not only took the mantle of pregame speeches to his team, but provided an example of stellar play on the field for his teammates to match. Even though he was shunned in the Pro Bowl voting for the second straight season, the 31-Yr old Davis earned his first All-Pro honor for his exceptional play.
Davis would lead the Saints with 111 tackles, including 87 solo stops and 11 tackles for loss. He added 4 sacks, 15 pressures, and an interception to his lofty production but was more than just statistics. When linebacker Alex Anzalone was lost for the season early on and fellow 'backers A.J. Klein and Kiko Alonso were limited down the stretch with injuries it was Davis that kept the unit playing at a high level. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Davis at a 90.4 overall grade in 2019, highest among the league's linebackers. His versatile skills as a defender were also evident in PFF's grades against the run (82.1), in coverage (82.8), and as a pass rusher (88.3).
The 6'2 248-Lb Davis is listed as an outside linebacker, but played all over the field for Coordinator Dennis Allen's defense. As accomplished a pass defender as he is against the run, Davis changed the momentum in many contests with his bone-jarring hits and sideline to sideline playmaking skills. He had the physicality to dominate in the tackle box and the athleticism to track down backs in open space. That athletic ability served him well as a pass defender as well, enabling him to take on most backs and tight ends while also disrupting opposing offenses with devastating blitzing ability. Demario Davis may not be mentioned among the league's household names as top defensive players in mainstream media, but he has shown that he is as effective as any defensive player in the National Football League.