Who and where do they fit on the 53-man roster?
You’ll find most NFL teams keep on an average of (7) linebackers on their 53-man roster. The Lions kept (7) on their initial 53 last season (Tim Twentyman from Detroitlions.com put Austin Bryant in the DL grouping).
OFF-BALL LBs (MIKE/WILL/SAM)
With Collins (WILL) and Tavai (MIKE) as your projected starting off-ball linebackers. Davis has some real competition for playing time for this first time in his career with Ragland, Jones, Reeves-Maybin, and Elijah Lee all fighting for back up spots.
Practice squad or farewell to Killebrew, Sam, Cabinda, and Pittman.
Davis has been used primarily as MIKE throughout his time in Detroit, but can also slide over to WILL … you could also make a case he played better there last season. But better is relative from his very low bar as Davis earned a 40.4 Pro Football Focus grade for 2019, which was 95th out of a possible 100 for LBs in 2019 (min 20% snaps). While Ragland was graded at a 63.5, good for 23rd out of 100. Both LBs have played three seasons in the NFL and Davis has never been graded better than Davis.
In 2017, when Reggie Ragland was traded for by then Kansas City DC Bob Sutton for their 3-4 defense, he was graded as their best linebacker (while playing the second-most snaps). Ragland then started 15 games in 2018 and was second on the team in tackles with 86.
Last season Kansas City brought in new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who runs a 4-3 scheme and prefers smaller, faster linebackers. Making Reggie a bit of a scheme cast-off for the Chiefs.
From 2017-2018 in Sutton’s 3-4, Ragland was used as an off-ball linebacker, only recording three snaps on the line-of-scrimmage in two years. Last season under Spagnuolo’s 4-3 the linebacker played 126 snaps on the line and 174 off-ball. I would expect Ragland would play more of an off-ball role in Detroit, similar to his role with Bob Sutton’s 3-4 defense.
Even though Ragland and Davis would be playing the same off-ball positions, they have two different roles.
Ragland is 6-2, 252lbs, and a downhill thumper. Whereas Davis – a 6-1, 245lbs blitz freak off a leash brings speed to the position. And that may be where Davis holds his only advantage … the Lions need pressure and that’s all Jarrad does. Even if it’s only pressure right up to the moment it’s time to make a hit then wind, Detroit could use all the pressure they can get.