The Miami Dolphins will have an interesting decision to make with Raekwon Davis after his rookie contract expires next offseason. Davis has been a regular fixture on one of the better defensive lines in the NFL but hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success and consistency that his fellow interior defenders have (namely Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler). Both Sieler and Wilkins are due for significant pay bumps over the next two seasons, but what should Davis expect?
Part of the problem could be the nature of Raekwon Davis’ typical assignments. He’s a massive human being; sometimes, his only job is to eat up blocks and stand his ground. This helps his teammates succeed but does little to fill up his stat sheet. While that has some impact on his perceived lack of production, it doesn’t explain it all away.
His M.O. Coming out of Alabama
The first thing that draws scouts to Davis is his hulking frame. He’s massive, even by NFL standards. Don’t think that’s all Davis is though, he has unique leverage for a man of his height and can show off elite athleticism... sometimes.
He started to show off this unique potential in 2017 during his sophomore season with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Davis registered 10 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, and even an interception during his prolific sophomore campaign-earning him first-team all-SEC honors. Davis had officially gotten the attention of the NFL.
Unfortunately, he was unable to build upon that impressive season and only registered eight tackles for a loss and two sacks over his final two seasons at Alabama. It wasn’t that Davis played poorly in his final two seasons, but teams were more aware of him and he failed to develop his game further-especially as a pass rusher.
Fast Start in the NFL
Davis didn’t blow anyone away at the NFL combine-posting rather pedestrian numbers. Combined with stagnating production, most players would have fallen all the way to day three (4th-7th round). Although Davis still had the unique combination of size, traits, and the occasional elite rep on tape-a tantalizing possibility for any defensive line coach.
That combination would make him a second-round pick (#56) with the Miami Dolphins in 2020. For his rookie season, it looked like the Miami Dolphins got one of the steals of the second round. Mirroring his start at Alabama, Davis was a force early on in his career. Per PFF, Davis was the highest-graded defensive lineman on the Dolphins that season (surpassing Wilkins, Sieler, and Godchaux).
Again though, he failed to build on this quick start. Davis has continued to get regular action on the defensive line, but his impact has waned over the last two years. While PFF grades aren’t always the end-all/be-all, Raekwon Davis went from Miami’s highest-graded interior defender in 2020 to their lowest-graded one each of the last two seasons. This coincides with a number of injuries Davis has dealt with and a clear drop in production.
While Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler have emerged as one of the best interior duos in the NFL, Raekwon Davis has seen his career stagnate. While there were questions about his maturity coming out of college, there has been no indication that Davis hasn’t taken his NFL life seriously.
It is worth mentioning again that to some degree his lack of production is a product of his assignment. Wilkins and Sieler are penetrators-they want to knife into the backfield and bring down ball carriers. Davis is more of a two-gap defender that is there to keep players at the second level of the defense clean. The question is, what is that worth to the Miami Dolphins’ front office?
In 2023, Davis is likely to see 500+ snaps. It will be paramount for him to show some level of growth both as a pass rusher and run defender. Davis still has the same unique traits and will turn just 26 during this upcoming season. If he is able to put it all together, the Dolphins will have an interesting question going forward.
Which top-tier defensive linemen do they re-sign? That sounds like a good problem to have.