And there it was.
The “it” in this case was a play Marcus Davenport made against the Buccaneers in Week 5. It was almost the exact pass rush I envisioned him making as a pro since I first started working on his 2018 draft breakdown.
Davenport had one of the nastiest long-arm moves I’ve ever seen from a college kid. I felt like most of what I saw him do at UTSA was going to be transferable to the next level, so I personally wasn’t surprised at all that the New Orleans Saints traded a first-round pick to jump up the draft board and select him at 14th overall.
But then, for some unknown reason, Davenport barely even used his long-arm move most of last season. He hadn’t used it much in the first month of this season, either. What makes it even more confusing is that he plays with a guy who just so happens to have one of the best long-arm moves, period. Cameron Jordan has embarrassed offensive tackles with them on almost a weekly basis during his nine-year career.
For Davenport to be able to see Jordan winning with long arms on film every week, but still not be incorporating them back into his pass rush plan, was #mindbottling.
Until this past Sunday, that is.
On Sunday, Davenport unleashed the kind of long arm from hell that had all kinds of bad intentions. The kind that made it readily apparent why the Saints coveted him so desperately on draft night. The kind that makes folks like me cuss when we get to keep watching it and rewinding it on film. The kind that actually looks remarkably similar to one he repeatedly pummeled offensive tackles with in college.
For those of who are stat sheet watchers, and still aren’t sold on Davenport and/or the trading a first-round pick to jump up and get him, let me walk you through his play against the Bucs and explain to you exactly why you’re wrong.
His sack on Jameis Winston showed everything Davenport can be
There was 10:31 left in the fourth quarter and the Saints were up 31-17. The Bucs had shown some signs of life in the second half and still had a chance to win if they could find a way to score fast.
The Tampa offense came out in shotgun with the running back offset to the offensive right and the tight end lined up to the left side. Davenport was lined up in a standup wide five as the left defensive edge rusher across from Bucs right tackle Demar Dotson.
The play started with an incredible get-off by Davenport. He jumped the snap count and forced Dotson to bail out of his stance right off the bat. Davenport shot straight up the field for two hard steps to give Dotson the impression that he was going with a full-on speed rush. Then, Davenport quickly shot his inside (right) hand right into Dotson’s chest as soon as Dotson was in his reach, and Davenport simultaneously changed course to running right down the middle of Dotson.
The sudden shock of Davenport’s long arm to his chest had Dotson looking like he was on the wrong end of a cannonball-catching contest.
Davenport appeared to slightly lift Dotson up off the ground momentarily with the initial force of the blow, then the follow through had Dotson running backward like a toddler trying not to fall. With one last shove, Dotson was well on his way to falling right on his ass when Davenport slightly changed course again to even more of an inside track. At that point, Dotson completely lost his battle with gravity and finished topping over.
Dotson did make one last gasp effort to try to grab Davenport’s outside (left) arm to try to pull Davenport down with him, but it was a futile attempt. With Dotson out of the picture, Davenport was completely free to set his sights squarely on Jameis Winston, and he didn’t waste any time taking him down. Davenport didn’t even break stride much as he ran through Dotson before he stuck out his right arm and clotheslined the Bucs’ quarterback violently to the ground.
So quickly had Davenport completely obliterated Dotson that he was able to make it to Winston just as he was finishing his dropback. To give you an idea of just how fast it was, Davenport’s teammate, A.J. Klein, came scot-free unblocked on a blitz from linebacker depth on the same play, and Davenport still got to Winston first. That is the kind of long arm I expect to see from Davenport every week from now on.
With his two sacks in the 31-24 victory over the Bucs, Davenport gave another little glimpse into the player the Saints thought he could be when they drafted him. Those two sacks raised his season total to three in the first five games, which isn’t far off the 4.5 he notched in almost a whole season’s worth as a rookie.
He certainly generated his share of pass rush pressure last season for New Orleans, and the 4.5 sacks are nothing to sneeze at. Still, I believe that had Davenport used the same long-arm move I saw him dominate with in college, his pass rush production would have been much higher as a rookie.
If he continues to use that long arm that way like he did against Tampa, I can just about guarantee his sack numbers are going to start to shoot up real soon.
I will say Davenport has lined up mostly on the right side in the pros, so maybe he just feels more comfortable using that long arm on the left side, but just hasn’t had enough opportunities over there yet. If that’s the case, I hope the Saints start flip-flopping him and Jordan a bit more. Jordan is going to dominate no matter where he lines up, so it will be worth moving Davenport more to the left side if it can help him get to playing at Jordan’s level.
There’s one more thing I am sure of. Whenever the day comes that Davenport really learns how to use that create-a-player type power of his more efficiently, he will end up being damn near unblockable. If his performance against the Bucs is any indication, that time is fast approaching.
Just remember, you’ve been warned.