In a season punctuated by injury at the safety position, second-year player Ashtyn Davis rebounded from a foot operation to play in 13 games for the Jets in the 2021 NFL season.
And though the former track star from the University of California said he needs to ramp up his tackling skills, he finished No. 6 on the defense in total tackles (62) after missing the first three games of the season, and a fourth while in the Covid protocol later in the season. Among those top six tacklers were three young cornerbacks (Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols) and two linebackers (C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams). Davis played 95% or more of the snaps on defense in 9 of his 13 games.
"This year, I came back in Week 4 and was thrown into the fire," Davis told team reporter Ethan Greenberg in a season-ending interview on nyjets.com.
Early on, the Jets coaching staff had anticipated a defensive backfield with a sort of split personality: veterans Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Maye at safety working with the young guns at cornerback. It didn't quite turn out that way. Joyner sustained a season-ending triceps injury in Week 1 while Maye sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Green & White's Week 9 loss at Indianapolis.
"I entered this season injured," Davis said. "But now I'm healthy and will be able to start OTAs and all that good stuff. I'm just happy I'm healthy.
"I cannot wait [for next season]. I haven't had this since high school. I was running track in college senior year [winning the Pac-12 110-meter hurdles title] and dealt with that injury. I'm super-excited to go into this offseason healthy and able to work on my fitness, come out feeling stronger and ready to go."
He was selected No. 68 overall in the 2020 NFL draft with a pick the Jets acquired from the Giants in the trade of Leonard Williams. Mel Kiper of ESPN had rated Davis the third-best safety in the draft.
After sustaining that foot injury in 2020, which required surgery, Davis was placed on Injured Reserve and landed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list for the entire preseason, then back on IR this past September -- which meant he had to sit out the Jets' first three games. He only took 38% of the defensive snaps in the OT win over Tennessee, sharing time with Adrian Colbert and Jarrod Wilson, who are no longer with the team. Later in the season, Davis teamed with hard-hitting rookie Elijah Riley to help stabilize the position.
"We are all meshing together really well," Davis said. "I'm excited for next year. The more we learn and the more we get comfortable I think we will do great things. I cannot wait.
"With me just going into the offseason healthy I'll be able to take my lumps in OTAs and keep leaning going into the season with my best foot forward. I know I need to work on my tackling, getting the scheme down. I think I have a good understanding now."
Davis, 25, finished the season tied with Echols, each with two interceptions. He said, however, that one of his biggest thrills of the season was watching Echols, the rookie from Kentucky, return an interception for a TD at Miami.
"It was his first in the league," Davis said. "Seeing his excitement really got me juiced. I was more excited for him than for my own picks."