Shortly after the official start of the NFL’s 2020 league year, the New England Patriots lost special teams ace Nate Ebner to the team of former assistant coach Joe Judge: the Giants’ new head coach lured the eight-year veteran to New York with a one-year, $2 million free agency deal. Given Ebner’s experience and prominent role on the Patriots’ kick coverage units as well as his job as the team’s personal punt protector, his loss certainly will be felt.
That said, the Patriots acted quickly to invest in a potential replacement option. On Monday, New England and safety Cody Davis agreed on a one-year, $1.5 million contract that also includes $300,000 in guarantees. While the pact itself does not elevate Davis to roster lock status come September, the 30-year-old still appears to be in a good position to eventually take over Ebner’s old responsibilities as a four-unit special teams player.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at him.
Davis has a lot of special teams experience
Davis started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent signing by the then-St. Louis Rams. While his defensive playing time was limited early on in his career, he immediately carved out a spot in the kicking game. During his five years with the organization, his role evolved and he eventually was a regular on five of the Rams’ special teams units between 2015 and 2017: Davis was used on the kickoff and punt coverage units, on both return squads, and also on the field goal/extra point blocking team.
While he changed teams in 2018 — he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars on a two-year free agency contract — his kicking game role remained a prominent one: he was on the field for 363 of the Jaguars’ 427 special teams snaps in 2018 (85%) and 382 of 439 last year (87%). Once again being a five-unit player, he combined to register 18 tackles during his 32-game stint in Jacksonville, and also blocked an extra point attempt.
Davis was a serviceable defensive player in Los Angeles
The Jaguars opted not to use Davis prominently on defense, but he still has a combined 660 defensive snaps on his seven-year NFL résumé. He saw his most action as a safety during his final two years with the Rams: he was on the field for 273 of the team’s snaps in 2016 (25%) and registered an interception as well as two pass-breakups; the following year, he played 280 defensive snaps (26%) and came down with another pick and two more broken-up passes.
While not a core defender by any means, Davis did offer valuable depth and also was able to successfully defend the pass: according to advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, he was targeted a combined 17 times by opposing quarterbacks throughout his career, but surrendered only four receptions for 45 yards. The sample size may be small, and the metric not perfect, but Davis registering a defensive passer rating of zero is impressive nevertheless.
If there is one blemish to his defensive play over the years, it is missed tackles. During the aforementioned 2016 and 2017 seasons he combined to miss 10 of them, earning 45.1 and 29.2 grades by PFF.
Davis was not invited to the combine but crushed his pro day
Even though he ended his college career at Texas Tech with a solid stat-line and plenty of in-game experience on defense and special teams, Davis entered the 2013 draft season flying under the radar. As a result, he was not invited to the scouting combine. That said, he did raise eyebrows during a regional workout at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington and later his pro day in Lubbock.
Measured at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, Davis ran the 40-yard dash and the 3-cone drill in impressive 4.41 and 6.77 seconds, respectively. He also registered a 10’3” broad jump as well as a 41 1/2-inch vertical. The numbers did not help him get drafted, but they did put him on the Rams’ radar and allowed him to join the team in free agency.
Davis was named a team captain in Jacksonville
Davis may not have seen a lot of defensive playing time in Jacksonville, but he still impressed his teammates due to his kicking game performance and his leadership off the field. In fact, he was named one of the team’s captains in 2019 and had to say the following about it: “It’s a great honor to be a captain, to be seen highly by your teammates. But for me, its going out and representing the whole, I wanna be the best special teams unit. I want to be the best special teams player.”
Davis once won $5,000 on The Price is Right
This has nothing to do with football, but it is a fun anecdote. In 2017, coming off his third season with the Rams, Davis appeared as a contestant on The Price is Right — much to the amazement of host Drew Carey — and ended up winning $5,000:
While that $5,000 check does look good, especially compared to all the $250 coupons he turned down, it pales in comparison to Davis’ overall career earnings: according to Over The Cap, he has earned approximately $9.4 million since entering the NFL seven years ago. Not bad for the former draft-day afterthought and newest member of the Patriots.
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