Every year when the NFL Pro Bowl rosters are announced, there seems to always be a slew of fan bases yelling foul that their teams’ standout player wasn’t selected…This year is no exemption. Name recognition always seems to prevail above everything else in any award that feature fan voting. This year the spots are especially significant because there will be no game played, thus there will be no additional alternates that will sneak into the all-star event by way of injuries or Super Bowl participants being excused from the game. What if I told you the best linebacker in football wasn’t selected?
What if I also told you Demario Davis was the best linebacker in football over the last 2 seasons? It may sound like a stretch, but I want you to think back to how historically terrible the New Orleans Saints defense was before he arrived in 2018. Statistically, the New Orleans Saints had the worst defense of all time for 5 consecutive seasons in terms of both total yards and scoring defense. For all the stability the Saints have had with the football holy trinity of coach, GM, and quarterback, the Saints have had a coaching carousel at defensive coordinator. 5 different coaches have held the position during Sean Payton’s tenure: Rob Ryan, Dennis Allen, Steve Spagnola, Greg Williams, and Gary Gibbs. All were hired with the expectation of equalizing the defense to match the potency of the offense. Demario Davis has been that equalizer. The defensive captain’s impact, however, can not be measured statistically alone. He doesn’t rack up a lot of sacks for an OLB, but his versatility is unparalleled. Through 14 games he has another season of 100+ tackles, 10 tfl and 4+ sacks making it 4 consecutive seasons. He is equally as potent against the run as he is blitzing or in pass coverage. Davis has played all three linebacker positions for the Saints during his tenure. That allows tremendous flexibility in Dennis Allen’s play calling as often times the offense isn’t able to identify where Davis might end up.
While he has yet to make a single Pro-Bowl, he was named 1st team All-Pro last year. He is also the team’s selection for this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Despite this, Davis is often overlooked and rarely credited for the amount of responsibility he had on the Saints defensive success. With an oft-injured Drew Brees, it has been the defensive that has navigated the Saints to the No. 2 seed in the NFC and perennial playoff appearances. It’s not a coincidence that the Saints 55 game consecutive game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher nearly mirrors Davis’ arrival 48 games ago. If he had double-digit sacks he’d be a front runner for Defensive Player of the Year, yet because of the functions of a 4-3 OLB, Davis is often overlooked. It is odd for a player to make an All-Pro team and not making the Pro Bowl. Usually, it’s because Pro-bowl voting stops after week 14 of the season and the All-Pro team comprises the entire seasons’ body of work. Davis was named the No. 67 on the NFL’s Top 100 Players list. Moreover, any recognition that comes from his peers and coaches he is seen as an elite player. Admittedly it’s hard to make an argument against a player like Bobby Wagner who’s usually recognized as the top player at his position, but he has been surrounded by complementary pieces his whole career and has played in much more significant games. But the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league and no one has done more to change an entire culture of a franchise from the linebacker position than Davis. It may be time to start normalizing referring to Demario Davis as the best linebacker in football.