After three straight seasons of poor defensive play from 2014 to 2016 from the New Orleans Saints, a revolution took place beginning with the 2017 influx of young talent. Defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore was drafted in the first round with fellow rookies Marcus Williams and Alex Anzalone in the same class. The defense took a major step forward that season, including a well-timed surge in the back-half of the schedule.
While that core of young talent was impressive, there was still something missing. A glue. That connective piece arrived in the offseason of the 2018 year with the free agency signing of former Jets and Browns linebacker Demario Davis. Davis had a reputation around the league as a strong tackler, vocal leader, and impactful presence. I mean, look how much fun this guy had playing with the Jets.
All of a sudden, all that drip, that charisma, and that game-changing command of the game was on its way to the Big Easy.
New Orleans reaped the benefits quickly. The defense continued to improve in 2018 with better communication, better fundamentals. Still some growing pains from time to time. But nothing like what the fanbase endured during the 7-9 seasons. Then, out of nowhere, there was an All-Pro talent in the middle of a defense taking the right steps forward.
Davis has not missed a game in his career appearing in 128 straight regular season games since he came into the league with the Jets in 2012. He racked up 110+ tackles and four or more sacks in each of the last two seasons. He has also been active in the backfield with two straight seasons with 11 tackles for a loss with the Saints. While he has not be nominated to the Pro Bowl in his career, he did earn much deserved recognition in 2019 being named First-Team All-Pro.
The Saints defense has gone from being ranked among the league’s five worst teams in total yards and scoring, on a couple of occasions, the worst. To 14th in both upon Davis’ addition and nearly launching into top-ten territory last season. While that can not be attributed entirely to his addition, he certain is a large part of the re-brand.
Davis enters the final year of his contract in 2020 and is a prime candidate for an extension as he currently only 31 years old. Retaining Davis beyond this season would be a fantastic move by the Saints front office. Not only is Davis poised to continue his tremendous production, but he would be a fantastic leader for this entire team in the stead of starting quarterback Drew Brees. When Brees missed his five games with a UCL injury last season, Davis assumed the role of leading the pre-game huddles for which Brees has become famous. Davis did so en route to a 5-0 record without the future Hall of Fame QB, with defense playing key roles in those contests wherein Teddy Bridgewater was at the helm.
Coach Payton and the Saints front office are very invested in bringing in players that of course will make their team better. However, they look beyond the field to do so. They consider locker room fit, personality and coachability, the consider the culture they have worked so hard to build and maintain. #56 radiates Saints culture unlike any other player in the locker room.
Davis’ effect is far from limited to his on-field play. There is the leadership aspect in the locker room, pre-game, and the mental fortitude throughout every contest that helps keep this defense, and therefor team, together each week. But his reach knows not the boundaries of Superdome walls.
Davis has been instrumental in some incredible work within the community of New Orleans and beyond. Davis time and time again utilizes his platform to bring upon positive change. In 2018, he and former Saints tight end Ben Watson joined forces to advocate for the ratification of Louisiana House Bill 265 which fought for the voting rights of thousands in the state. Davis has also been a vocal leader in fights against minimum sentencing for non-violent offenders, supporting Louisiana’s First Step Bill with helps to provide rehabilitation assistance to those already imprisoned, and even took the border to give assistance to children separated from their families with other NFL players like Josh Norman. More recently, Davis also teamed up with United Way of Southeast Louisiana, promising to match up to $25K worth of donations to the Hospitality Cares Pandemic Response Fund which provides aid and assistance in the form of crisis grants to hospitality workers in need. Far from his first time partnering with the organization, who he represented on his My Cause, My Cleats customized game cleats back in 2017 before he joined the Saints
Davis was also threatened fines for his “Man of God” sleeve in 2019. He responded by creating an entire line of Man of God headbands, selling them and then donating the profits and the rescinded $7,017 fine to the hospital his mother worked at in Jackson, MS – St. Dominic Hospital.
Simply put, Demario Davis is more than leader of men on a football field. He is an absolute inspiration. He is exactly what any other celebrity would love for you to believe they are. The difference is that Davis puts on display, in every sense of the word, his nature. Has Demario Davis been an outstanding addition to the New Orleans Saints football team? Yes. Has he been instrumental in the turnaround of the Saints defense? Without question. But most importantly, are his achievements on the field matched by his truly remarkable work off of it? That, much like the Saints’ decision to sign Demario Davis in 2018, is a no-brainer.