A turtle’s best defense lies in the thick shell that it carries its entire life. The more resilient of turtles often live the maximum amount of its lifetime should they ultilze their defenisve mechanicsm effectivley. This allows them to hold out long enough against would be predators that threaten its quality of life
For an NFL player, their best defense is employed and deployed through their means of performance and conditioning on and off the American Gridiron Football Field. For these athletes to maximize their careers, a majority of their time will be spent on ensuring that their bodies and mental makeup are ready for the vigors of sixteen different sets of challenges; each being more arduous than the last. Not only does the phsycial element of these players need to be at peak form but also the mental austerity players need to bounce back from either team or individual failures.
The latter of which is being implied for this week’s X Factor: Sean Davis. Defensive back from the University of the Maryland Terrapins.
Last season, we had seen the pure form of rawness but potential of the rookie who was initially a safety for the Terrapins. However, during his senior season, injuries had begun to take their toll on the Terrapins secondary. With few options to go to, then Head Coach Randy Esdall elected to have Davis switch to a corner position in order to stabilize a secondary that was quickly depleting.
While the move did indeed ensure that Maryland would have someone that was willing to play one of their most vulnerable positions, that vulnerability would only surface more as Davis had struggled to not only learn this new position as the season wore on but constantly deal with opposing number one receivers in the BIG 10 Conference. This form of despair had given Davis two options; crack under pressure or persevere through adversity. Davis elected the latter and his mental austerity ended up being one of the many reasons Mike Tomlin sought to make him the second pick for the Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft. While Davis’ dream had been realized and his body was ready, it was his mentality that would be put to the test once again as he was not only tasked with learning the slot corner position but also re-educate himself on the principles of playing his original position at Safety.
As with his switch from safety to corner did not go well at Maryland, his transition back to his original spot proved less so at the professional level. It would be quite some time before many would see Sean Davis again after suffering a back injury in week three against the Eagles and being demoted soon thereafter. Even with his chance to start once again against Miami, Davis’ progression appeared to sink; his lowest point being a costly penalty towards the end of the showdown with the Dallas Cowboys in the final quarter of the game. Afterwards however, Davis’ play had received a jumpstart against Cleveland. From that point onwards, Davis had showcased the mental fortitude to not only shrug off demotions and individual shortcomings but also unfortunate endings as was the case against Dallas.
However, coming into this season, now fully healed, many expected Davis to become one of the up and coming stars after solid performances against both Miami and Kansas City in last seasons AFC Wild Card and AFC Divisional match ups respectively. However, since the beginning of the preseason, Sean Davis has not demonstrated much improvement, his worst game being arguably against the Cleveland Browns; the most morbid form of irony considering said team ignited his improvement a season ago. While Sean Davis still has the tools to excel due to his phsycial power, his mental power in terms of catching up with the game have not caught up yet; bad news given the fact that Pittsburgh’s next opponent can use the inside of the field towards their advantage.
To start out with, Kyle Rudolph may not be either Travis Kelce nor Rob Gronkowski but can still cause mismatch issues in the secondary given his abilities to find the seams within defensive coverages. Add the fact that Adam Thielen is going to ensure that possessions continue for Minnesota given his own combat catch abilities in addition to the likes of Stephon Diggs finding holes in zone coverages and one equates this to arguably Sean Davis’ greatest weakness, sluggish diagnosis.
Much of this inability to progress through opposing offensive routes is due to the fact that Sean still has an issue diagnosing some of what the opposition is doing. This form of inadequate awareness is causing Sean to ponder more than react. Such time is critical and may prove to be Pittsburgh’s downfall come tomorrow morning should these issues persist.
Tomorrow’s outcome will come down towards how more adept Sean’s diagnosis is when reading opposing offensive receiving routes are. Should Sean be able to react without pondering what Minnesota’s offensive attack plans are, Pittsburgh’s defense can win against Minnesota’s explosive yet possession based offense. Should Sean falter, this game could tip the scales to Minnesota as Pittsburgh will be playing into Minnesota’s hands; score enough point and allow the defense to hold onto the lead until time expires. How much Sean Davis has learned thus far will determine how well Pittsburgh’s defense fares against the likes of Thielen, Rudolph and others.