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Dolphins’ Starting Right Guard Jesse Davis Film Study

Travis Wingfield

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The 747 snaps Jesse Davis played in 2017 exceeded expectations by 747. Entering camp, Miami were banking on veterans Jermon Bushrod and Ted Larsen to carry the water at the infamously lacking guard positions. A torn triceps put Larsen on the shelf in August and a foot injury cut Bushrod’s season short at 10 games.

Larsen’s injury opened the door for a platoon at the left guard position. Davis alternated possessions with Anthony Steen for the first two games, then played only 13 snaps over the next three.

Then, just two games after earning the full time LG job, right tackle Ja’Wuan James went out with a season-ending injury. Davis packed his bags and moved over to right side. After another pair of games passed, Bushrod’s injury occurred. This forced Sam Young, strictly a tackle, into the line-up bumping Davis back inside.

A six-game audition proved fruitful enough for the Dolphins to make an early proclamation for Davis’ 2018 season.

For the first time since any ‘Phins fan can remember, the team will enter camp with a definitive starting five up front. No positions battles, no trying out players at multiple positions, just working on continuity and keeping franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, upright.

Though Davis’ route to the NFL was trying, it wasn’t serendipitous. Graduating from a high school class falling short of triple digits, Davis was recruited to play defensive tackle at the University of Idaho. Starting 12 games on the other side of the football, Davis flipped to offense his sophomore season.

Cut by the Seahawks and Jets, Davis signed with the Dolphins’ practice squad in 2016. A long shot to make the roster, Davis proved one of the surprises of camp earning a job on the 53-man opening day roster.

Again, Davis would travel an abnormal route to a starting job.

Jesse Davis’ 2017 snap counts by position:

Positions 2017 Snaps
Left Guard 225
Right Tackle 120
Right Guard 402

 

Standing six-foot-five and 320 pounds, Davis might not have the look of an athletic guard capable of excelling in a phone booth as well as in space, but that’s precisely what he was in 2017.

Davis applied the traits he learned as a defensive tackle to his new home on offense. His controlled demeanor and ability to create leverage sealed off some running lanes for big gains by Kenyan Drake.

Despite a blazing three-cone time (7.41, good for fourth best among offensive linemen), Davis is known for his strength and ability to anchor.

This Dolphins’ offensive line was constructed around the core philosophy that keeping the quarterback clean is the primary objective. Josh Sitton and Dan Kilgore were acquired in large part for their ability to do just that – protect the QB.

Laremy Tunsil was heralded as the top tackle prospect in the 2016 draft class for his ability to, you guessed it, protect the QB. Ja’Wuan James was elite in this regard in 2017 (4thgraded pass protecting tackle while healthy).

Davis entered the off-season as the unknown on a suddenly sturdy Miami o-line. National writers with limited knowledge of the team (like Gregg Rosenthal) had Larsen as the incumbent at right guard.

Many things can be said about Adam Gase and the coaching staffs of the last two seasons. The most palpable issue has been the inability to self-scout his own roster and give reps to the correct players. So this early declaration signals a positive change.

Coming from a scheme at Idaho where players rotated positions throughout the game, it’s no wonder Davis has taken some time to find his niche. He said as much at his press availability following yesterday’s OTA practice.

Going from playing tight end in high school, to all four guard and tackle positions in college and climbing his way through that versatility at the pro game, it’s not unreasonable to say Davis’ best ball is still ahead of him.

He’s 26-years old, his six best games were his most recent, and he’s trending in the right direction. In 378 pass protecting snaps Davis allowed 19 total pressures (2 sacks and 17 hurries). His 96.1 pass blocking efficiency mark was better than 25 NFL guards.

Even more encouraging for Miami, those numbers were racked up largely when Davis was toiling around at left guard and right tackle. Aside from a bad day at the office in week 17 when David Fales and a host of other backups played, Davis allowed only six pressures in his time at right guard.

Coupling the arrow-up-arc of his career, with the minimal salary, Davis is pure upside. An exclusive rights free agent in 2019, Davis could expect a pay raise if he continues to trend in the right direction, but costs will still be beyond affordable for the team.

With stability and assurance in his back pocket for the first time in his career, Jesse Davis should provide the Dolphins with something the team hasn’t had in more than a decade – a long-term stalwart at a guard position.

@WingfieldNFL

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