The Pittsburgh Steelers selected DT Carlos Davis out of Nebraska with the 232nd pick in the seventh round in the 2020 NFL Draft, hoping to take a shot on a player with sporadic play during his time with the Huskers, but displayed the athletic traits and quality size the team looks for at the interior defensive line. For the most part, Davis made little impact in his first season in Pittsburgh, playing in seven total games with only six total stops and one TFL on 54 total snaps played via Pro Football Reference.
However, given the “project” label Davis had as a late round/ priority free agent projection by most draft sites, the fact that he was able to stick on the regular season roster and avoid roster cuts definitely was a good sign of the faith the coaching staff has in him going forward into 2021 and beyond.
While Davis wasn’t the greatest producer on the stat sheet during his time in college, his athletic potential likely was the reason the Steelers took a chance on him at the end of the draft. Here are some of the measurements and testing number from Davis at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine:
Arm Length: 32”
Hand Size: 9 5/8”
20yd Shuttle: 4.52
Bench: 27 reps
As you can see from his athletic testing, Davis is quite the specimen when considering his size and the position he plays. While definitely raw coming out of Nebraska as a defensive lineman, there is no denying his athleticism, which is reinforced by his ability to complete as a two-sport athlete for the Huskers, competing as a thrower on the track and field team where he was recognized as an All-American. There were some flashes on tape at Nebraska of this high-end athleticism, and Davis had moments last season where he flashed, as well. He is a natural mover in space, having the burst and open field speed to turn and run in pursuit, which is a great to have in an interior defender.
We see that on this play against Dallas where Davis aligns head-up on the center and hits the club/rip on the right side, pressuring the QB as he quickly changes direction. Recognizing the dump off to the TE on the screen play, Davis does a good job turning around to run down the TE for a loss on the play. Former Steelers DL Javon Hargrave showed similar open-field movement, ability, and pursuit. While Davis isn’t the same caliber of player, it’s great to see the effort and hustle from the DT spot.
Davis struggled with timing his get-off in college, being inconsistent in his burst off of the snap of the football. He showed improvement in this area in 2020, getting into the blocker quicker and being able to fight blocks well at the point of attack while on the move. Here against Cleveland, we see Davis fire off the ball into LG Wyatt Teller and stay square with him on the zone run to the right, fighting the block laterally all the way to the hole to get in on the action and bottle up #27 Kareem Hunt for a minimal gain on the play.
Davis showed well overall in his run defense snaps last season, able to fight blocks and not give up his shoulder and get turned by the blocker to be in position to make plays. We see a similar play against the Cowboys where Davis again fights through the block by #73 Joe Looney on the zone run to the left, fighting through his inside shoulder and making the stop on #21 Ezekiel Elliott.
Another good example here by Davis in the game versus Cincinnati where he does a good job crossing the face of LG #60 Michael Jordan into the A-gap, keeping his leg and arm free to defeat the block and pursue the runner from behind and get in on the tackle.