Demario Davis met with reporters last Friday and went over many of the changes in his game in the year he played for the the Browns. And everyone was smiling and nodding in agreement because that was, after all, training camp report day, before anyone had put on the pads.
Then coming back from the first day off of camp for today's practice, the defense had the upper hand in team drills and Double-D was one reason, moving quickly, playing forcefully and even pressuring the pocket effectively from his middle linebacker spot.
The summer is still long and the regular season longer still, but here are four reasons Davis may well be "new and improved" from the 'backer he was in his first four seasons with the Green & White:
1. Blitz and CoverFans remember Davis' strengths as his durability and takedown ability — three straight seasons of 16 starts and 100-plus tackles from 2013-15. But they also remember when offensive coordinators took advantage of Davis' coverage weaknesses, and as for his pass rush, he had a modest six sacks combined in those three seasons before departing for Cleveland.
"Being a better blitzer and better in coverage were the areas I really wanted to focus on," Davis said, adding specifically, "I take coverage a lot more serious and looking at ways I can get better, from a zone concept and a man concept."
2. Larger BodyRoster and program weights can fudge the truth, but it's accurate to say that Davis, who was always listed at 239 pounds as a Jet, came back a reshaped 248. He's been throwing his weight around in particular when taking on backs en route to the pocket.
"Our coaches coach us to be physical," he said. "That's what we want from the jump, to inflict fear and dominance on the opponent. And the way you do that is to be physical from the first play to the last play."
Green & White Returned to the Practice Field for a Public Session on Thursday
3. Defensive MatesDavis likes the talent he's surveying from his post in the middle of the defense. He likes the speed of second-year man Darron Lee beside him and from the 'backers in general. "If you've got fast linebackers in this game," he said, "you've got a chance."
But really impressive for Davis is the front he's playing behind. Yes, when he left, he had lined up behind Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. But he never got to play behind the player that Leonard Williams has become or behind active nose Steve McLendon.
"There's no front in the league that I'd rather be playing behind than those guys we have up front," Davis said.
4. Looking in the MirrorDavis, head coach Todd Bowles said after practice, "is in a different place mentally. He's dialed in more as far as understanding the calls, what to do, how to do it. And instead of just playing and knowing his job, he knows a lot of other people's jobs, which helps his job."
"I'm not the same player I was when I was here before," Davis agreed. "I just keep giving glory to God for humbling me to the point of looking at myself and figuring out ways I can get better. ... I'm just excited to come back and play with this unit and put that improvement I've made individually into that team concept and make us better."