The Philadelphia Eagles are going through a transitional period right now. The baton has been passed to a rookie Head Coach and his young staff with patience being preached from the top down in the name of growth and development. The bigger picture is what matters here and Davion Taylor embodies that better than anyone.
Drafted in the third round last year, it was well known that the Colorado product was a raw talent. He missed out on playing high school ball due to his family’s religious beliefs but possessed a terrifyingly athletic skillset. In fact, the 230-lbs linebacker was actually named an All-Pac-12 selection in the 100m dash!
As fluid and as agile as Taylor was, his processing ability and positioning often lacked. When asked to cover acres of ground quickly, there are few better. When asked to do so when making a split-second read, the results were often predictable.
In his rookie year, Taylor only played in 2% of defensive snaps. He was never going to get better if he wasn’t afforded an opportunity. There was only so much he could get from film-study and practices. 11 weeks into his second campaign, and he’s played in 35% of defensive snaps. In fact, it was the realization that he had improved alongside T.J Edwards that justified the move to release Eric Wilson, and leapfrog Alex Singleton, two players who had struggled all season long.
It hasn’t all been pretty. There was a play against the Raiders where he misread the path of the fullback and surrendered a monstrous gain. But on the other side of the coin, there’s the huge forced fumble against the Broncos that resulted in Darius Slay’s scoop-and-score. It was the first of two forced fumbles on the day, with the young linebacker clearly playing with a new-found aggression and confidence.
Head Coach Nick Sirianni spoke glowingly of Taylor’s growth following Sunday’s win over the Broncos.
He’s definitely got a lot of talent, with his athleticism, his speed. He can make up for some of those things and some of that lack of experience because he has that ability.
And so, playing that position, I think you go through some of those growing pains, too, that a quarterback has to go through, right, diagnosing all those things, making calls, diagnosing everything that is going on, run, pass.
And so, there’s no doubt, what you said, his athleticism has allowed him to make up for a little bit of his lack of playing time. But that will grow.
He’ll grow more and more and more each week through the reps that he’s getting. As long as he’s willing to put in the work and he’s definitely one of those guys that is, another high character guy that works hard, that loves football, that’s tough, that’s willing to put in the work to get better every single day.
When a guy gets better every single day, it is, it’s two things: One, they’re getting more reps; and two, they care about their teammates, they care about the sport, they care about being the best version of themselves that they can, and they got no choice. When it is like that, they have no choice to get better. And so, that’s definitely something I’ve seen from Davion throughout this year
Taylor might not be making pro bowls anytime soon, but nobody expects him to. The fact that Taylor was deemed as a project LB who barely saw the field as a rookie and is now growing into a reliable contributor on defense speaks for itself.
His speed is consistently on show and he’s beginning to trust his eyes a lot more when penetrating to play the run. The times where he freezes due to a quarterbacks’ movements are fading, and Taylor is instead looking lighter on his feet as he sits back into his zone, waiting to burst down onto a route. It’s a huge step forward considering how inexperienced he was coming into this season.
The beauty of this year in a way is that the linebacker position struggled massively during the opening portion of the season. The defense had more holes than a golf course and the play was so disappointing that there was really no downside to letting Taylor get some experience. It’s not like things could get worse.
The linebacker spot has been one of endless frustration for fans over the past few years due to a lack of assets invested and no real long-term stability. Taylor is chipping away at that preconception one game at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and much like Hurts, Sirianni, or any young member of this Eagles team, it just takes a little patience to let the work put in yield long-term results.
There’s a long way to go, but with a skillset so rare, it’s encouraging to see Taylor take his first real steps on the way to carving a long-term NFL career.