Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis is underappreciated

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07: Thomas Davis #58 of the Los Angeles Chargers speaks to the media before the game against the Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum on November 07, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07: Thomas Davis #58 of the Los Angeles Chargers speaks to the media before the game against the Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum on November 07, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis has been getting a lot of criticism as of late, and most of it is unwarranted.

Three missed tackles; that is how many Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis had on Monday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Three. Many fans took to Twitter each time Davis missed one of those tackles, and even exaggerated the counts to at least six or seven. It just shows how much Davis is despised around these parts, and it leaves this fan sitting here wondering, “Why?”

Tackles are an overrated statistic in the NFL, there is no denying it. Green Bay’s Blake Martinez has led the league in the category consistently, yet if you ask analysts around the league how good he is, you’ll be met with the same answer: He isn’t. The tackle stat is an enigma in a sense, however, as tackles do have to be made.

The problem with the tackle stat is that it doesn’t matter where the tackle is made, whether it is after a 60 yard gain or a six-yard loss. That is why you see Pro Football Focus put an emphasis on stops instead of tackles. Stops are a tackle that is recorded within three yards of the line of scrimmage, where anything after that three-yard gain is recorded as a tackle.

Context matters, and it’s something that applies to every single stat in the NFL, from receiving yards, to passing touchdowns, to sacks, to tackles. You can’t just look at a stat, or even a number of stats, and have an idea of how good or bad a player is. This includes missed tackles. Head coach Anthony Lynn talked a few weeks ago about a missed tackle from safety Rayshawn Jenkins, where Lynn stated that the tackle wasn’t Jenkins’ assignment, so it was unfair to ask him to adjust to make that tackle in the first place.

Interesting, to say the least. You also frequently hear Gus Bradley speaking on the levels of tackling; basically, that there are multiple techniques to tackle someone based on the angle, the type of runner, and the situation. That’s a lot to take in, and it puts perspective on both the tackle and missed tackle stats. So, we’ve seen rookie Drue Tranquil miss tackles, we’ve seen edge rusher Melvin Ingram miss sacks, where is the similar hate?

The answer is impact, being that Davis’ impact is ignored, where Ingram or Tranquil’s impact is not ignored. Davis makes several plays a game that the Chargers just could not make last year when they would get throttled by the run game, whether it be meeting a block and stopping the lead blocker in his tracks, or going through that lead blocker and blowing up the play. Chargers fans just didn’t see that sort of impact at the line of scrimmage from a linebacker last year, and now we are starting to see it from Davis.

Or I won't skip any. First play of the 2nd Quarter!

Thomas Davis does a fantastic job here. Shows off the straight ahead speed and the awareness to sniff it out. What a tackle. Love this play by Davis. Love it. No gain.

— Jason Balliet II (@Syntari13) September 18, 2019

I remember after making this video, I sat back and wondered why I hadn’t seen any praise for Davis on Twitter when this play happened. Davis made one of the best plays we’ve seen from a Chargers linebacker since Jatavis Brown was a rookie, so what gives? Simply put, it’s just ignored when he makes a play, as he just doesn’t seem to be appreciated.

It was even evident when he broke up a pass to Travis Kelce on Monday. Davis had just wrapped up his man, but the runner fought and escaped from his grasp. Fortunately, Davis held onto him just long enough for reinforcements to arrive before the runner could grab a first down. Had Davis not been there, you’re looking at a potential touchdown.

It didn’t take long for Davis to make up for it. The very next play, he forced Kelce out of bounds to force the incomplete pass, and Kansas City had to settle for three points. The impact of that forced incompletion was largely ignored. It’s just how the season has gone for Davis: He is largely ignored even when an impact is made.

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Take away all the plays he has made, and Davis has still made an impact with the Chargers. Denzel Perryman is taking on lead blockers, Kyzir White is flying around the field when he does get reps in a similar fashion, and Jatavis Brown didn’t look half bad in his first start of the season on Monday. All, as it currently stands, are healthy. Davis’ veteran presence was needed in this young linebacker room.