The Vikings offense has looked good leading up to this week. Rookie Davlin Cook has lit up a pair of bad run defenses in Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Against Tampa Bay, however, he was not a particularly effective runner.
He did his major damage in the passing game against them in week three. Cook has shown early in the season that in any situation where he gets space to work, he is incredibly dangerous. He may be one of the NFL’s most treacherous hazards a mere three games into his career. The entire Vikings offense is predicated on softening up the defense with the running game and using that to open up the defense for the passing game.
The running game is like a can opener letting the Vikings feast on a defense’s delicious contents.
The Lions secondary is much quicker and more athletic than the Vikings receiver group. That only matters though, if the receivers get the full attention of the Lions defenders. The key to stopping the Vikings defense is stopping Dalvin Cook. The Lions need Jarrad Davis on the field to do that.
He is a massive distraction to the safeties in coverage both as a play-action threat and as a receiver that might break a long one. The Vikings receivers are not game breakers on their own. Their receivers run good routes. They run plays as intended. They get to the right spot on the field. The Lions secondary is more than capable of handling that.
Why the Lions Need Jarrad Davis So Badly
We saw against the Falcons on Sunday what the Lions run defense looks like without Jarrad Davis. We can only hope that we never have to see it again. Without Davis, Tahir Whitehead, Nick Bellore, and Paul Worrilow were on the field at the same time.
All of these players are capable of filling roles in the defense, but they do not complement each other particularly well. They all have issues in coverage, particularly against quicker receiving backs in zone assignments. They all lack the reaction time to effectively prevent a completion or even make the immediate hit after one.
Rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin was used to supplement the group. He is a much more dynamic player, but his inexperience showed. He was habitually out of position and using his athleticism to cover for it. That doesn’t work in the NFL, particularly with a player like Cook on the field.
Jarrad Davis has only played two games in his short career. The sample size is very small, but he clearly brings a different dimension ot the Lions defense. His development from the first game to the second was incredible.
In the first game, he looked a lot like what we saw on Sunday. He was a step too late as he struggled with the speed with which plays develop it the NFL level. In week two, he did not rack up the same tackle numbers because the quarterback went elsewhere with the ball. It was in the second game, however, that he looked like the dynamic force Lions fans dreamed of on draft day.
He was not a target to be picked on, but a hunter stalking his prey. He was anticipating the play, not reacting to it.
Stopping Dalvin Cook Is The Key To The NFC North
Sunday’s linebacker play is the type that players like Cook thrive on. Letting him get the ball in his hands is always a mistake. The Lions best hope for containing the NFL’s number two rusher to this point of 2017, is to have their own rookie phenom at full strength. Davis can provide coverage that makes whoever the Vikings quarterback is look elsewhere.
The Buccaneers defensive performance on Sunday is a frightening preview of what we may see if Davis is not available. The Lions need Jarrad Davis to be available on Sunday. If he is not this could be a game that exposes a few uncomfortable truths about the Lions