It turns out that Davis' development is more like using the oven; it takes a little more time, but if you take a peek in the window, you can slowly see your food getting cooked to perfection.
Davis, who finished his rookie season with 76 tackles, is far from a finished product in his career with the Washington Football Team, but from the view of Cole Holcomb, who has been a mentor for Davis since he was drafted 19th overall, things started to trend up for his teammate in the latter portion of the season.
"You saw more consistency out of him," Holcomb told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "He's a very gifted athlete, and when he gets that confidence, he makes more plays. And I think we saw that throughout the season."
Davis was put into a challenging position throughout training camp and in the preseason. As the middle linebacker during that span, he had to learn and react to how the opponent was planning to attack the defense while also getting a grasp of his own responsibilities. Even for the best rookies, it can be demanding at times.
Physically, there was no doubt that Davis could handle it. Aside from putting up solid numbers at his Pro Day, the team expressed confidence when it drafted Davis that he could play at all linebacker spots. And there were times, like his fourth down stop in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills and a third down stop against the New York Giants the week before, early in the season when he showed that. They're the kind of plays, Holcomb said, that "you almost just want to sit there and watch him do it."
Those moments occurred when Davis had no questions about the play that was called or his responsibility. There were moments when it took a little more time for those things to process. That was when Davis showed, as head coach Ron Rivera put it, that "he's a young guy that's got a lot to learn."
Holcomb, who became Washington's play-caller on the field this past season, noticed that whenever he would tell Davis how part of a play was going to unfold before the snap, David was trying to work out how that applied to him. If the defense had an extra second, Holcomb said, he would have figured it out, but by the time it would click, the ball was already snapped.
"A lot of it was…me and him learning how to communicate in terms of he understands why I'm telling him or what it means to him when I tell him something," Holcomb said.
Relive the highlights from each week of the Washington Football Team's 2021 season by scrolling through the top photos of the year. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Karlee Sell and Joseph Noyes/Washington Football Team
Davis did improve as the season went on, though, and it showed in his performance on the field. He had 42 tackles after the bye week, two of which were for a loss. Russ likes to judge players on how they recognize the details, and Davis was diagnosing plays and trusting his keys.
"When you see young players willing and getting excited and getting more comfortable and more confident talking about it, even that's another really good sign of growth," Russ said.
Davis attested to that after the season finale against the Giants, saying that he took a step forward in recognizing where he's supposed to be in run and pass coverage.
"Just knowing where I'm supposed to be in general and just being out there to just play fast and not have any second thoughts about where I am supposed to be," Davis said.
Case and point: his fourth-down stop on the Giants' opening drive.
"I was just simply doing my job." Davis said. "On that particular play, I was supposed to come off of the edge and I just so happened to notice that he [Giants WR Alex Bachman] was trying to come right off of there with a quick jet-sweep and they tried to get a first down, so I might as well just shoot off of the edge and make a play."
It seems that Davis may end up playing in a different spot next season. Rivera believes he may perform better as an outside linebacker. He was placed there in the second matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, and Rivera was pleased with how he was able to play fast in that role.
No matter where he plays, Holcomb expects Davis to come back as a better player after going through his first NFL offseason.
"I think he'll come back, and I think we'll see a big jump from him," Holcomb said.