Rex Ryan likens Jets rookie linebacker Demario Davis' leadership skills to Ray Lewis
BY Manish Mehta
Rex Ryan has never been bashful of making grandiose predictions, projections or comparisons. Whether it was scribbling “Soon to Be Champs” on an ESPN tour bus or proclaiming that an aging Derrick Mason would catch 90 or so balls, Ryan isn’t afraid to take a leap of faith. On Friday, he took another.
Ryan likened third-round pick Demario Davis’ “natural leadership skills” to Ravens’ great Ray Lewis.
“You can have a list of 500 numbers up there on a wall, but how many real leaders are up there?” Ryan said on the first day of rookie mini-camp. “It’s easy to say, ‘Well, this guy was a leader for his football team.’ But does he have that thing that he can lead men? That’s rare. Some guys have it. Ray Lewis had it when he came in. The day he walked into Baltimore, he was the leader of that defense. That was one year before I got there. That’s what they all said. When I got there, he was clearly the leader. It’s strange… but what kind of motivator is Ray Lewis? Ray Lewis motivated me as a coach. That’s rare for a player to do that (and) have that kind of ability. I’m not saying Demario is that guy, but… and there’s only one Ray Lewis… but it’s interesting.”
“His face. His mannerisms. Passion,” Ryan continued. “I see some things.…. It’s interesting… When you watch him on the tape, he pops off the tape. Like I said, he reminds me of a young Bart Scott: A guy that’s just full of energy, flying all over the place and couldn’t wait to hit somebody. That’s kind of how he reminds me.”
Davis played both strong and weak-side linebacker at Arkansas State, but will be moved inside in the Jets’ 3-4 scheme. The feeling inside the organization is that Davis could be the steal of the draft.
His speed could make him a candidate to play on obvious passing downs. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine admitted earlier in the week that the front seven had become “dinosaurish” last season. Gang Green consistently struggled covering tight end in space as well.
“You either have it or you don’t and it seems like he has it,” Ryan said. “There’s some guys that have that natural leadership and he has some of that. That’s what you love in a linebacker.”
Davis already talked about Ryan’s “Play like a Jet” mantra.
“We think we’re special here,” Ryan said. “I know we had a bad year. Granted… I’ll say that with every statement, but I know one thing: We want it to be special. You can play in this league, but can you play for the Jets? Again, we want that attitude and that mentality… that this is the place to be. We want everything you got. … I think that young man understands it.”