PFF coverage data goes a step deeper to show Carlton Davis' fit with the Lions

The Lions need what Carlton Davis brings to the table, and a step deeper into Pro Football Focus coverage data only proves it further.

If he'd had a better season last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carlton Davis would not have been available via trade in March. But he didn't, so he was available and the Detroit Lions made their first move to rebuild their cornerback room.

Davis seems to be a better scheme fit in Detroit than he was in Tampa Bay. Lions' defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn would like to be able to blitz more, while leaving corners to hold up in man coverage. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Davis did not allow a touchdown in man coverage.

One of the bigger issues for the Lions' cornerbacks last year, centered on the now-departed Cameron Sutton, was cornerbacks simply not being in position to make plays. It's one thing to not be able to corral interceptions (insert "why defensive backs aren't wide receivers" joke here), but perimeter receivers simply had it too easy-which was exacerbated by some really good ones late in the season.

More PFF coverage gate shows Carlton Davis' fit with the Lions

PFF recently ranked top-10 NFL cornerbacks by separation last season, as in coverage separation. In this case of course less is better, and the categories are "tight coverage", "step of separation" and "open targets allowed."

Former Lion Darius Slay led in the tight coverage category (35.0 percent), and Davis came in at No. 9 (29.7 percent).

"One of the‘ biggest flaws last season was the play of their outside cornerbacks. While the team doubled up on the spot in the draft with Terrion Arnold and Ennis Rakestraw, trading for a veteran like Carlton Davis III could be the biggest upgrade of all to this position group. Last season, their highest tight coverage percentage amongst outside corners was by Jerry Jacobs, whose 20.7% rate ranked 39th out of 62 qualifiers."
-Jim Wyman, Pro Football Focus

So Davis was 30 spots better in tight coverage rate last year than the best outside corner the Lions had in that category-Jerry Jacobs.

A high tight coverage rate doesn't necessarily equate to being good on those targets. Slay's 63.5 grade on such targets was the second-worst among 62 qualifying cornerbacks with at least 50 tight coverage designations. He allowed 10 catches on contested targets, tied for ninth-most. But it helps to simply be in position to make plays because you're maintaining tight coverage. Slay had 14 pass breakups last season, matching the combined total Sutton and Jacobs had for the Lions last year.

The Lions are hoping a scheme that better matches what Davis does best brings him back to his level of play from a few years ago. Time will tell if that happens, but there's evidence to show they got it right this time after whiffing on Sutton in 2023 free agency.