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Film Room: What does new safety Sean Davis bring to the Colts?

Breaking down the game of Sean Davis

Pittsburgh Steelers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have continued to stay busy with depth signings this offseason, as they signed safety Sean Davis to a one year deal. Davis is a former starting safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers who has mostly been a backup over the past two years. He spent part of last season with the Washington Football Team before being cut and re-signing back with the Steelers.

In today’s film room, we will be looking at some aspects of Davis’ game that are intriguing while also looking at the steady fall from grace over the years for the athletic safety.


From Starter to Barely Seeing the Field

Davis was a second round pick for the Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft. A versatile prospect, the appeal in his game was the fact that he could play anywhere from slot cornerback to deep safety in the secondary. He even played a little linebacker in the box at Maryland. On top of this versatility, Davis had the major appeal of being one of the most athletic safety prospects to come out in years.

His career got off to a bit of an inconsistent start. The Steelers’ defense back in 2016 had an identity crisis and their talent level wasn’t where it needed to be for their blitz heavy scheme. As a result, Davis saw his fair share of struggles as a young player in that secondary. He did, however, log a ton of playing time for those teams as he played a total of 2,920 snaps from 2016-2018 as the starting safety. In that span, he tallied 212 tackles and 73 total stops while missing 50 tackles (per PFF). In coverage, he allowed 13.3 yards per reception and 7 touchdowns while coming down with 5 interceptions and having 12 pass break-ups.

The Steelers were in the midst of a defensive change going into 2019 which led to the complete loss of playing time for the inconsistent, but young safety. The Steelers spent a first round pick on Terrell Edmunds in 2018 to play strong safety and then ended up acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick for a first round pick through a trade. These two moves sent Davis to the bench, as he appeared in just 55 snaps in 2019.

He was a free agent after the 2019 season and opted to head back home and sign a one year deal with the Washington Football Team. This fit didn’t last long though as Davis struggled to beat out Troy Apke (PFF’s 79th ranked safety) in mini camp. Davis was ultimately cut and re-signed back with the Steelers. He only appeared in 58 total snaps this past year.


Positives (Rangy and Physical)

While his career does appear to be in a downward spiral at the moment, there are some things on film that immediately stand out in his game. He is one of those players who isn’t just a workout warrior, as his elite athleticism is apparent on film. He has excellent range, but is at his best when he can fly downhill and attack. He is great when it comes to the ability to click and close and is explosive and fast out of his breaks. In his one start against Cleveland this past season, there were a lot of good things on film.

He is a physical presence from the safety position, which is a nice change of pace in today’s NFL. He is always looking for the big hit and tries to establish his presence in the secondary. It does lead to a few misses and whiffs but when he lines up his target, watch out.

I was also very intrigued by his ability to play around the line of scrimmage. His speed is a major asset there and he actually stacks up blocks better than most linebackers on the Colts’ team. He obviously wouldn’t be an every down linebacker for the Colts by any means but I personally liked him more around the line of scrimmage than I liked him playing any type of safety position.


Negatives (Struggles in Coverage/Tackling)

Now, there are quite a few negatives to look at in Davis’ game. He is a great athlete who wants to play physical but honestly, that’s all he is at the moment. His tackling issues were the biggest detriment to his game from what I saw. When he lines up his target, he can lay a huge hit. However, in almost every other situation, it typically leads to a miss. He has a tendency to drop his head and not wrap up when approaching contact. He also takes some really tough angles in run defense that leads to big plays for opposing offenses. These are huge red flags for a safety.

When it comes to coverage, there are issues too. He is perfectly fine as a half field safety (which luckily the Colts run a lot of Cover 2) but anything else is a bit of a struggle. He gets caught looking in the backfield way too often, even when in man coverage. As a single high safety, he lacks the necessary instincts and vision to showcase his athleticism and truly be rangy. Personally, I don’t think Davis is much of an upgrade at all over what the Colts got out of Tavon Wilson in coverage this past season.

Oh, and there was also this major blunder in 2018. It’s not a huge flaw because it was one play but I just wanted to add this into the article.


Final Thoughts

Sean Davis is the perfect type of player to take a shot on. He is an insanely good athlete who brings a violent demeanor to a secondary. I completely understand and support the Colts bringing in a player with his traits and experience this offseason.

This move, however, shouldn’t be all they do at the safety position. The Colts have two young, blossoming stars currently at safety and are in need of a reliable third safety behind them. I don’t think that player is Davis. He is intriguing and has some upside but if he has to start a few games this next year, it could be trouble for the Colts.

The Colts are in the perfect position to do what the Washington Football Team did with Davis this past year. They should draft a safety on Day 3 (Washington drafted Kameron Curl) and if that player proves to be ready for some playing time, simply move on from Davis before the year starts. If that young player isn’t ready to go, then have Davis be an inconsistent yet experienced backup this year.

I like this signing by the Colts as long as they also bring in a day three safety (or play George Odum some more on defense). Davis is the type of player to take a shot on in free agency.